Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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# friendly discussion
Keyboard warriors: Rugby bloggers from Ireland and Italy file in for a Gchat debate
We called in the on-line experts to give us their thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s big game.

PULL UP A virtual chair and order a virtual espresso.

We’re discussing the hot topics of this weekend’s big Six Nations game.

Joining us are; JL Pagano of Harpin on Rugby and Dario Mazzochi of Right Rugby.

You can follow them both on Twitter, of course, for all your rugby needs @harpinonrugby and @rightrugby.

So, we ordered some (insert stereotypical yet delicious Italian foodstuff) and got chatting… Here’s how it went.

The Score: OK, So lets kick things off. Dario, how do you feel Jacques Brunel is coping as Italy coach after two games?

Right Rugby: Well, it’s just the start of a long trip and we’re waiting to see what’s in his mind. He wants an “offensive” Italian side, moving the ball, conquering fields. It’s not easy beacuse it’s something new for us, he needs time. but he’s as latin as us, so: it’ll be interesting to understand his real plan

Harpin on Rugby: I agree – it’s a brave move to have his backs flinging the ball like they are, and if that is his long term plan he needs to be given time to get it right.  His biggest challenge would seem to be to settle on a number 10.

Right Rugby: Number 10: the magic number.

The Score: Tobias Botes has it this weekend, what are your thoughts on him?

Right Rugby: he needs confidence and you get it playing rugby, staying on he pitch. He’s a good player, he’s not a fly-half but it’s quite clear Brunel wants to work about it.

The Score: Yes, the French have never really seen a problem in playing a nine at 10, have they?

Harpin on Rugby: Yes he played scrum-half for Treviso against Leinster last November and seems more settled in that role.  Plus he doesn’t seem to be the better place kicker of the Italian options at the moment.

Right Rugby: right Sean. And with this game plan (moving the ball) you need quick hands to help your backs.

Harpin on Rugby: Yes I reckon quick ball is what they will be look for from him rather than kicking, so it will be up to the Irish centres to be sure with their gainline tackling

The Score: Botes is one of 10 treviso players in the starting line-up. I’m not too familiar with Lorenzo Cittadini, how do you guys think he’ll do against Cian Healy?

Right Rugby: Cittadini is one of Treviso key players and look at what Benetton did this season: they started winning away, not only in Monigo (their stadium).
Treviso scrum plays a vital role in Benetton game, Cittadini has grown a lot, I’m quite confident.

Harpin on Rugby: No doubt they will be missing Castro not just for set-pieces but for the charisma & experience he brings to the side.  But still Cittadini is no spring chicken himself and will do all he can to unsettle Healy.  I wouldn’t back against too many Italian forwards!

Right Rugby: The real problem is that Irish scrum is very smart in contact area…

Not smart, but shrewd


The Score: If Italy dominate the scrum, can they come close to winning?

Harpin on Rugby: If they do they will need to make a statement very early on.  Ireland have a lot to prove and will surely come out to put points on the board in the first quarter.

Right Rugby: To me discipline will be the key of the match. And of course the battle between the two packs will be a part of that.
We can’t give Sexton chances to use the ball so much.

Harpin on Rugby: As often is the case the referee will play a key part. Craig Joubert is likely to establish what he wants early and Healy has been known to get on the wrong side of refs in early scrums.

The Score: Can Ireland up their game with a sleepy 1.30pm crowd at the Aviva

Harpin on Rugby: They’ll have to! Many have questioned the team selection but the fact remains this is the matchday 22 Declan Kidney wanted going into this Six Nations, and it’s their first chance to play together.

If they’re not on their game from the kickoff that’s when the likes of a Parisse can take advantage.

The Score: Are you happy with Kidney’s choice?
Dario, how do you judge this Ireland team?

Right Rugby: Ireland never die. That’s the point. It’s a good team, from my point of view: clever guys, a very good back row, a talented scrum half. So, it’s a good team to me.

Harpin on Rugby: Personally I was hoping we could use this Six Nations to bring up some promising yougsters like Eoin O’Malley, Paul Marshall and Simon Zebo but given what happened in Wellington I can see why they went with the majority of the squad from then.  Sadly it didn’t work out against Wales but would be tough to throw in new faces at this stage, particularly with no match for the past few weeks.

Right Rugby: But our back row is very good, too. The best we have.

I repeat: to me discipline is the key. With players whit a lot of experience, Azzurri don’t have to fall in the trap.

Harpin on Rugby: Yes the back row matchup will probably the key one on the day, especially in the loose.  Despite not having an out-and-out seven, the names Ferris, O’Brien and Heaslip would be welcome on any Six Nations teamsheet.

The Score: Dario, Italy have played well in both their games, why have they lost? what penatlies are they continually guilty of?

Right Rugby: Put attention on Robert Barbieri: a real break down area warrior.
Why we lost? Good question…
I mean: first of all, we must learn to win matches. That’s all: we do mistakes, even little mistakes, that make the difference at this level.

Roberto Barbieri fends off Tito Tepaldi / ©INPHO/Roberto Bregani

Right Rugby: Don’t forget we played first match against France – for what regards England match, I think we should act like underdogs.

Harpin on Rugby: No doubt about it – Italy’s focus coming to Dublin should be to act as spoilers, taking Ireland off their gameplan as much as they can.

The Score: Are there any players you think should have been included in the italy starting line up?

Right Rugby: No, I think Brunel made a good choice.

I’d like to see Semenzato, but the guy at the moment is not in his best condition. But he’s on the bench, after all.

The Score: Speaking of the game-plan Jeff, What is it?

Harpin on Rugby: Ha! Million dollar question after the Wales match! It’s not just about the gameplan though, it’s about being able to adapt during the match and that’s where I felt we were found wanting then.

This Saturday we need to aim to test their defences early.  They will go into the match knowing an 80-minutes trench battle is required, so no sense in starting them off easy!  I’d take the first few possessions and let my loose forwards do as much damage as they can to get that scoreboard moving.

Right Rugby: 80-minutes battle? Are you so sure?

Harpin on Rugby: Sexton is definitely the one who needs confidence early on.  A succesful early place kick or two should settle him so if we can get on top of the breakdown early, penalties will come.

Right Rugby: Because I’m afraid with our game plan Azzurri won’t be able to stand for whole 80 minutes. we’re working hard, trying to establish a new rugby style: we need time to do it.

The Score: That is interesting, because we certainly used to look down on Italy being a 60 minute team. But since widening the Celtic league to the Pro12, Italian players are now competitive to the final whistle.
Dario, are you saying that this new style has temporarily put Italy back a step?

Right Rugby: No, I don’t say that. I just suppose we really need time to “make experience”.

The Score: OK, fair enough.

Right Rugby: Now it’s not only a matter of competitive scrum, but our forwards must be part of the new strategy all around the field. So you can imagine all the XV must absorb the new plan.

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Harpin on Rugby: Yes…I agree on the 60-minute team description, just saying that if they are to win it would probably require them holding out for the final quarter.

The best way for Ireland to counter this would be to come out and make the most of home advantage from the start.

Overall it has to be said that with Italy being in transition with a new coach and Ireland playing at home, we have to be favourites.  All they have to do is go out on Saturday and play like it!

Another interesting element will of course be the performance of Keith Earls at 13.  Everything that was said about his selection for the Wales match comes back into play…good linebreaks, questionable defence.  If the Italians continue their expansive game they could well target him.

Right Rugby: I agree with Jeff: if Ireland start scoring as soon as possible, that will be the best thing for Kidney and his team.

It’s like the song… “We’re young, we’re free”. I can’t remember the band name at the moment.

The Score: (much later) I think it’s this one…

YouTube credit: supergrassofficial

The Score: Sgarbi and Benvenuti v D’Arcy and Earls: Discuss.

Right Rugby: Sgarbi and Benvenuti play in the same team, they know each other, they have strength and confidence. At the beginning of this 6N, I bet on Benvenuti as Italian revelation and I keep betting.

The Score: OK guys, it’s five years since Italy almost beat Ireland in Ravenhill, but only 12 months since we almost lost in Rome.

Can Italy run Ireland close again on Saturday?

What is you score prediction?


Harpin on Rugby: I’m going to back the Irish to come out on top by around 14 points.  There’s a lot of pressure on them to get the win and with such a long layoff plus a Paris trip around the corner so I doubt a blowout will happen.

As I said Earls could be a target but also how he plays alongside Darcy will be key.  Much of O’Driscoll’s success particularly on defence was built on calls given by his inside centre.  Earls is more of a “maverick” style player – not necessarily a bad thing to have at 13 but communication might be difficult bbetween them

Right Rugby:  Yes, I think so. Let’s say a 10 point win for Ireland.

Harpin on Rugby: If Ireland don’t fly out the traps the Italians will simply grow in confidence.  They definitely CAN do it, but that will depend on O’Connell, Sexton & co, and I believe the home side will have the edge.  The maiden Six Nations Italian victory over Ireland will come, but not this weekend!
Ireland by 14 for me.

Ireland 24-10 Italy

Right Rugby: 23-13

The Score: Dario, Grazi mille,

Right Rugby: prego

The Score: Jeff, cheers.
Hope ye enjoy the game,

Right Rugby: I hope so.

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