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.''
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.