'It doesn't mean everything is fixed now' - Ireland have tougher tasks ahead

After a six-try win in Rome, Ireland now look towards a visit to Edinburgh.

Keith Earls scores Ireland's final try.
Keith Earls scores Ireland's final try.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

JOHNNY SEXTON SAYS Ireland know they have plenty of improvements to make after their 48-10 Six Nations win over Italy in Rome.

Ireland scored six tries and delivered some exciting, effective passages of attack in the first half in particular as they secured their first victory of the 2021 Six Nations.

However, Italy had arguably their worst showing of the championship so far and that must be taken into account in assessing Andy Farrell’s side.

Ireland captain Sexton, who played the entire game, was pleased with many aspects of the Irish display but he stressed that they know there is more work to do following the defeats to Wales and France in recent weeks.

“There was some brilliant stuff, especially in the first half, I thought we were outstanding,” said Sexton. “It was very frustrating to concede before half time but our intent and our concentration, how clinical we were at times was very pleasing.

“Stuff that we’ve been taught and we’ve been learning in training finally came out in glimpses today so I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the coaching staff.

“If you think about the Wales game, we played the game with 14 men. We think we would have played like that [in Cardiff]. We were a bit frustrated after the French game as the things we talked about during the week we didn’t deliver.

“We will probably look back and regret that we didn’t play to our potential and we didn’t execute the game plan as best we could.

“Each game has been different. I suppose today was an accumulation of both weeks and a coming together, but it doesn’t mean everything is fixed now. We’ve got to keep improving.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said he was “proud of the players” after their return to winning ways.

“They’ve shown real character over the last couple of weeks,” said Farrell, “It’s nice coming after two losses and waiting a couple of weeks to try and put that right.

cian-healy-celebrates-with-james-lowe Ireland secured a bonus-point win in Rome. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We talked about it being a test of character and staying strong, they’re just very united together. As a group, I think they pulled together and showed their leadership in different ways.

“I thought we earned the right to score some points with the way that we approached the game in the first half. I thought our attitude was top class, we approached the game in the right manner, we paid the game and Italy the right respect. I thought we punched away really well in the first half and then the game opened up.”

Farrell indicated that Ireland don’t have any great injury concerns over the players that were forced off in Rome – Jordan Larmour, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, and Ronan Kelleher.

“Jordan had a little bit of tightness in his hip flexor so we had Earlsie on early enough because we didn’t want to take a risk there,” said Farrell.

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“Tadhg had just gone over on his ankle but he seemed to walk off pretty well. Ronan has just got a dead calf so he’s going to be good and Dave Kilcoyne failed his HIA, but he’s in good spirits in the changing room as well.”

Whether a big win over Italy genuinely prepares Ireland for a visit to Murrayfield in two weekends’ time is unclear but Farrell believes his side will be in a good position for that trip.

“We know if we don’t get our own intensity right, we don’t earn the right to score the tries we have,” said Farrell. “That’s what we did.

“Does that prepare us well for Murrayfield? Look, we take a break now, we have a weekend off, then we dust ourselves down and prepare as best we can for Murrayfield.

“We had two weeks off coming into this game and the questions being asked during the week was if we were on a hiding to nothing. Well, not to us because we judge our own performance. Our performance and attitude were good today.”

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