Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer has paid tribute to his side's Italian opponents after the Azzurri's battling 28-17 defeat at the Stadio Flaminio.
Italy stuck to their task with grim determination despite seeing a 9-8 second-half lead whittled away by many people's tournament favourites, and their efforts were rewarded with a last-minute try from Leandro Castrogiovanni.
''All credit to them,'' Stringer told BBC2.
''We knew it would be tough coming to Rome. They always give us a tough game here and they showed a lot of spirit today.
''They had a lot of ball in the first half but we got a few scores when we got into their 22.
''In the second half we needed to play with ball in hand more and thankfully we did that in the end.''