Italy coach wary of injury-hit Ireland
Italy coach Jacques Brunel said he will not count on injury-hit Ireland lying down and rolling over when the sides meet in their final Six Nations clash at Rome's Olympic Stadium today.
Italy currently sit second from bottom of the table ahead of France, whom they beat in their opener last month, and one point behind third placed Ireland.
But despite the mouth-watering prospect of a respectable finish, Brunel says he will not take the Irish lightly.
"We have the utmost respect for Ireland. People say they've been ageing for the past 10 years, but they're always up there and can give any team a good game on their day," Brunel said.
The stock of Brunel, brought on board last year following the departure of Nick Mallett, has remained high in Italy despite his side losing three of the games which followed their impressive 23-18 win over France.
Now, the Frenchman is one game away from seeing his aim of winning two games in this campaign come to fruition against a side which has been hit by several injuries and with doubts over the future of coach Declan Kidney.
Ireland, whose sole victory in this campaign came against Wales in Cardiff, drew 13-13 against France last week.
Kidney has been left lamenting missed opportunities throughout the tournament, but the 2009 coach of the year, an award given after guiding Ireland to a rare grand slam, has refused to use injuries as an excuse.
"Frustration is the word," Kidney said after last week's draw.
"We had a lot of new guys coming into the team. However, if we had one or two things go our way we would have won.
"It is just about taking your chances which makes the difference at this level."
Injuries have come back to haunt Ireland for what should prove to be another bruising encounter against Italy, with the loss of replacement scrum-half Eoin Reddan after he broke his leg.
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who had been named in the team after missing the games against Scotland and France with a hamstring injury, was also ruled out on Thursday.