COMPLACENCY IS A natural part of the human condition.
The body and brain will never want to work harder than is required to complete a task that has been accomplished many times before.
However, one team Ireland’s rugby team might never ever become complacent about is Italy. After a decade and a half of having reminders about their strengths drilled in to the psyche, talking up Italy is pretty much part of the culture at this stage.
Ireland’s loss to the Azzurri in Rome two years ago, wasn’t so much down to complacency as injury, organisation and motivation. It still hurt though. And players who were there must have privately vowed to never let Ireland become such a rabble again.
In Italy, however, they must believe that Ireland are the lower hanging of the two prize fruits in Pool D. Having lost convincingly in their opener against France, Sunday’s meeting with Ireland is their final hope of reaching a quarter-final.
So even after a loss to Les Bleus and a very close shave against Canada, Sean Cronin is well conditioned to expect the best Italy can offer.
“They haven’t shown too much and haven’t played particularly well in people’s eyes. We just have to be expecting a massive physical challenge around the maul and scrum area. Then they have dangerous outside backs and threats everywhere. They’re bubbling nicely and they’re probably targeting this match as their make or break.”
Outside the squad, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone predicting anything but ‘break’ for Jacques Brunel’s side on Sunday. But if they’re going to go fall out of the running for the knock-outs, they might as well go with all guns blazing. Or, rather, with the most important asset of their arsenal locked and loaded.
“He’s their go-to man in a lot of areas of their play,” Cronin says of Italy’s own captain, leader, legend, Sergio Parisse.
“Be it kick-off return, kick-chase, his dominance in the air… they’re all aspects of a number eight’s game that aren’t usually to his level.
“He’s absolutely huge for them. I’m sure he’s going to give them a huge lift. A hugely experienced player. You can see they raise the game with him in the side.
“We know them very well, they know us and we play each other week in week out. With him on board we know they’re going to be an even bigger threat.”