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Irl. Vs. Italy...Saturday’s Press

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    Irl. Vs. Italy...Saturday’s Press

    Theres not really much quality press in any of the papers, but here's a roundup of the "usuals"....



    Italy v Ireland (Sat)




    <td width="5">












    Saturday, 17 March

    Stadio Flaminio, Rome

    Kick-off: 1330 GMT

    Live on BBC One, Five Live, Radio Ulster, BBC Sport website


    Ireland will be the first of the title contenders in action as they face Italy in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday.

    Eddie O'Sullivan's men are level on points with France and England
    going into the final games, but the French have the edge on points

    Mick O'Driscoll replaces the injured Paul O'Connell while fit-again Marcus Horan returns in place of Simon Best.

    Flanker Maurizio Zaffiri, prop Salvatore Perugini and centre Ezio Galon come into the Italian line-up.


    Zaffiri replaces Mauro Bergamasco who was banned for four weeks for striking Stephen Jones in the win over Wales.

    Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan is well aware of the threat posed by the Italians.

    Pierre Berbizier's side have already beaten Wales and Scotland and are eyeing their own version of a Celtic triple crown.



    It is the first time Italy have achieved two wins in a Six Nations campaign.

    Their victory over Wales may have been a narrow and controversial one but it was a powerful display.

    Earlier in the championship, Italy clinched their first-ever away win in the Six Nations with a four-try sucess in Scotland.

    O'Sullivan insists that winning is the masin objective - not running up
    a big points total in an attempt to overhaul France at the top of the

    "If we get the win then we are back in the championship and it puts pressure on France and England," he said.

    "If we win by more then that is great but the



      BOD Interview (Video) 440000/newsid_6447600?redirect=6447619.stm&amp;news=1&amp ;nb ram=1&amp;bbwm=1&amp;nbwm=1&amp;bbram=1

      Edit : 2nd for me


        From the deadsite....

        <table ="std_newsartd" summary="Layout table" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><t><tr><td ="line">Ireland Set To Sparkle in Rome ?</td></tr>
        <td ="date">16 March 2007, 11:12 am</td></tr>
        <td ="author">By Chris Byrne</td></tr>
        <td ="multimedia">
        <td ="abstract">With the exception of the game against England at
        Croke Park, Ireland have really failed to sparkle in this year's RBS
        Six Nations, but that may change in Rome on Saturday.</td></tr>
        <td ="article">In fairness,whena side goes into any series with the expectations that attached Eddie O'Sullivan's side, the long grass islittered with danger.

        They never really looked like losing to the Welsh. A share of luck
        in the opening half against France left them looking winners before
        that late try andeven ifEngland provided the weakest challenge of
        this or indeed anyrecent championship, the Irish still impressed with
        the controlled, clinical manner of that victory.

        On to Scotland and the expectation that they would claim the Triple
        Crownpulling up only to find the Scots encouraged by the game not
        being over afterthe opening quarter having been pummeled by the Irish.
        But even when Chris Paterson kicked the Scots into a 18-13 lead, there
        would have been few rushing to the bookies looking for odds on a home

        So despite showing less than their best form, Ireland go into this
        final gameas Triple Crown holders and in with a shout of winning the
        championship. Thatwe are told is the sign of a good side and even if
        the Triple Crown now seems to hold thesame allure asthe Eurovision
        song contest title, it is still a fair indicator of where Ireland stand.

        And now there's just the Italians between them and more than
        likely,runner-up spot in the championship. If Scotland play like they
        did last week thenFrance will givethem a hiding, that is of course if
        the French decide not to reproduce the insipid fare they served up
        against England.

        As for the other championship contenders England ? Well after they
        beat Scotland in the opener, they were World champions again and in
        with a shout of retaining the title - in their own eyes. The flaws
        evidenced in their no-show againstIrelandweren't really flaws at
        allafter they beat France. And nowwith the new generation -Palmer,
        Flood, Geraghty - they are set to take over the world again- in their
        own eyes. The headline in a British newspaper - Johhny Who ? - after
        that Twickenham victory probably sums up their problems very aptly. No
        need for Johnny Wilkinson now. Yeh right.

        Someone needs to tell them that one swallow doesn't make a summer
        and those of you who are owed money by the bookies after Cheltenham
        might re-coup some of those losses with a little bet on Wales on

        For their part Ireland need feel in pressure in Rome and that might
        just help them produce the type of rugby that so thrilled in the
        autumn. While the Italians will be anxious to add another prestigious
        scalp to their belt, there is the chance that their appetite may
        already be sated.

        Besides that they will miss the injured front-row pair Andrea Lo Cicero and Martin Castrogiovanni and even more so the suspended Mauro Bergamasco not to mention the threat posed by Gonzalo Canale and <stron


          Video link not working FC...
          The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man - George Bernard Shaw


            <h2 ="uppercase clear">Bergamasco to cheer his team on</h2>

            <h3>Friday 16th March 2007</h3>
            <div ="story">

            <h2>Bergamasco: 'I am really sorry for the team'</h2>


            @@@@SPAN id="intelliTXT">

            flanker Mauro Bergamasco is hoping his team-mates will make him proud
            in the final round of the Six Nations against Ireland in Rome on

            Bergamasco will have to watch the final encounter of the tournament
            from the Stadio Olimpico stands after being handed a four-week ban.

            The experienced forward was punished for punching Wales captain
            Stephen Jones during their 23-20 victory, and the Stade Francais player
            admits he is still digesting the ruling.

            "I am really disappointed," said Bergamasco.

            "I am really sorry for the team, for my team-mates.

            "I would have wanted to give my contribution for Saturday's game.

            "We tried everything to defend my reputation in front of the
            disciplinary commission but there was simply nothing that could be

            It was a double blow for Bergamasco considering he will miss the
            Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leicester on April 1, with the
            27-year-old only able to return to action eight days later.

            "The problem is that I cannot appeal against this ruling," the Italian star said.

            "But I will remain with the team, trying to inspire my team-mates to put Ireland under pressure and play a great game."

            Bergamasco joined his team-mates on Thursday as the Azzurri were
            honoured by prime minister Romano Prodi at the Palazzo Chigi, the site
            of Italy's government, following their recent achievements.

            Last weekend's triumph against Wales marked their second
            consecutive success in the championship after their historic victory
            over Scotland at Murrayfield - their first win on the road since
            joining the tournament in 2000.

            The Azzurri will have to overcome the absence of Mauro Bergamasco
            and Andrea Lo Cicero, with the latter ruled out of action with a fever.

            The good news for coach Pierre Berbizier is that Mauro's brother,
            Mirco, has brushed aside an ankle injury and will be included in
            Italy's starting XV against Ireland.

            Despite the setbacks, Azzurri captain Marco Bortolami has warned Ireland to expect a battle this weekend.

            "It's true that we will not have a very important player like Mauro on Saturday," Bortolami said.

            "But we are fully focused on the game against Ireland and we are really eager to end the tournament in style." @@@@/SPAN>


              <h1> Ireland looking for 20-point margin </h1>
              @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Brendan Gallagher in Rome@@@@/SPAN>
              <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">1:21am GMT@@@@/SPAN>17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
              @@@@SPAN ="small">Team details
              Have your say
              Read comments

              <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1"> Printer friendly team details: Italy v Ireland | Mick Cleary blog: Calculators at the ready </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">RUCKU: Carling, Brooke, Evans and a naked ranting Lee Dixon </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1"> In pics: Six Nations action | Telegraph TV</td></tr></t></table>IF
              you are Irish and praying for a minor miracle on St Patrick's Day where
              would you choose to be? Rome, obviously. Spring is verging on summer
              and everybody in green will be at early mass tomorrow if Brian
              O'Driscoll's team can deliver Ireland's first Championship in 25 years.
              It will save going to bed.Ireland's part of an
              outcome made in heaven is that they must produce their best performance
              of the season and thump the Italians by 20 points or more to set up a
              points difference - they currently trail by four - that will really put
              the French under pressure against Scotland later this afternoon.There
              was a time when that would almost be a formality, but no longer. Italy,
              who have been suffering an injury crisis worse than any other nation,
              are now made of stern stuff. Two Six Nations wins on the bounce have
              earned an audience with the prime minister, but three would be
              sensational and cement their place permanently in the Italian sporting
              psyche.As their coach Pierre Berbizier said
              yesterday: "In France we have an expression 'there is never two without
              a third'." Which translates as meaning that good things come in threes.
              Make no mistake - Italy want this game as much as Ireland.<div ="mpuad"><div ="adtxt">advertisement</div>< src="


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                <hr noshade="noshade">

                <h3>Preview - Italy v Ireland</h3>
                <h5>Friday 16th March 2007</h5>

                was a time when many in Northern Ireland had a slogan - Home Rule is
                Rome Rule. The rulers of Rome on Saturday may well in fact be Irishmen
                and they could just, if the sums work out properly, be Rulers of Europe
                - well at least the Six Nations of Europe - by the end of Saturday.

                From the inception of the Six Nations the Irish have enjoyed
                going to Rome with its "golden roofs and marble walls, the Vatican's
                majestic halls", not to mention the spring warmth and ambiance and the
                wine and laughter. They will enjoy it all that much again with a great
                victory on Saturday. The gleeful sound will "redouble till it fills
                with echoes sweet the Seven Hills."

                Mind you, it will be a victory tinged with tension, for the
                immediate aftermath will be the France-Scotland match in Paris, with
                France knowing exactly what target the Irish have set them. But even if
                the French, who beat Ireland in Dublin after all, do dash the cup from
                Irish lips there will be other cups to flow with good cheer and lots of
                fun in the Eternal City.

                Rome could just be a great place to be on Saturday evening.

                The Italians have proved wonderful rugby hosts as Six Nations
                matches become increasingly colourful in their fancy dress and painted
                faces and bright, bright wigs.

                Regardless of the result they will be great hosts again and,
                regardless of the result, they will not boo their team in defeat - as
                is becoming a sickening rugby fashion - for the Azzurri have surpassed
                all previous Azzurri in their achievements this year. They have made
                Italy proud, and for the second week in a row Stadio Flaminio is sold
                out and could have been sold out again and again. Suddenly, for the
                first time, rugby players have become national heroes.

                One of those heroes will not be playing on Saturday - Mauro
                Bergamasco, suspended for four weeks for punching Stephen Jones last
                Saturday. He has become the glamorous face of Italian rugby in recent
                times, a Roman idol.

                The sights of the two teams would have been differently set at
                the start of the Six Nations campaign. The Irish sights would have been
                set much higher and have not quite reached the target of a Grand Slam,
                which means their campaign may be tainted with



                  <h1> England's gift paves way for Irish triumph </h1>
                  @@@@SPAN>By Keith Wood@@@@/SPAN>
                  <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN>Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">1:21am GMT@@@@/SPAN>17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN></div><div>Page 1 of 2</div>


                  What joy in my heart to see that win! What courage and bravery to
                  come back from adversity. And what confusion that these thoughts
                  emanate from me, a rabid Irishman, <a href="" target="_blank" lang="" target="_blank">when I think back on how happy I was that England beat
                  France</a>. It is confusion but of a very comfortable kind. Maybe it
                  stems from the goodwill of Croke Park but God, did I want England to
                  win. I, and every other Irishman, wished it so, but let's not
                  get carried away; we wished it for entirely selfish reasons. Having
                  had our hearts broken against France, England have opened the way
                  for love to blossom once more.

                  And so on this sunny St Patrick's Day, with spring in the air
                  and every other cliché at hand, we get the chance for redemption. If
                  we can win well today, we set the bar for the French, and the
                  pressure may well tell after their fragile performance against
                  England. For the English, last week was too little too late
                  championship-wise, and their points difference seems too much of an
                  obstacle if the games go to form. But this has been a tournament
                  when form seems to have been turned upside down.

                  France are in a state of flux. The tinkering of Bernard Laporte
                  has posed more questions than found answers. Too many players used,
                  all of quality, and yet they do not resemble a team. David Skrela
                  has become the key, the man for France to build their World Cup
                  pretensions around, but his twisted ankle after 10 minutes left the
                  French rudderless. Their abject performance was bewildering - they
                  looked for all the world as if they didn't care. Ireland
                  succumbed to them a few weeks ago but at least they had tried. The
                  French showed a distinct lack of interest. Infuriating as they are,
                  a bravura performance could be in the offing, but I believe not. The
                  slickness of past French teams seems in short supply. They should
                  beat Scotland, but not by as much as they would wish.

                  Scotland have their own issues but at least last week showed that
                  they can play with intransigence, and that is a big help. They are
                  chronically short of pace, a curse in the modern game. But for 75
                  minutes they compensated, albeit helped by a poor Irish performance,
                  only to let victory slip from their grasp. Lack of fitness and its
                  first side-effect, concentration, let them down. Silly penalties
                  conceded, game Ireland.<div><div>Ireland were very average, and they are not an average team. It
                  was a day to win and they did. But we expect so much more from this
                  team that winning the Triple Crown in this manner left a very
                  deflated feeling. The first 10 minutes went well and the last five
                  showed great control but the game in between was racked with
                  inaccuracies. And yet with England's gift we are in a great
                  position to win our first championship in 22 years. We have to meet
                  the Italian challenge, keep composure and control and, frustrate
                  Italy. This has, in all our recent games, led to a series of trips
                  to the sin-bin and helped Ireland romp home. And we will need a big
                  winning margin to heap the pressure on the French.</div></div>

                  And so we are left with Wales and Italy. Wales are a mess at the
                  moment, their Grand Slam style floundering without the players that
                  strutted it so well. Gareth Jenkins is a pragmatist, and yet his
                  input has struggled to get a response from the team and they look
                  uncertain. After the highs of a couple of years ago they are no



                    <h1> Ireland looking for 20-point margin </h1>
                    @@@@SPAN>By Brendan Gallagher in Rome@@@@/SPAN>
                    <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN>Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">1:21am GMT@@@@/SPAN>17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
                    @@@@SPAN>Team details

                    you are Irish and praying for a minor miracle on St Patrick's Day where
                    would you choose to be? Rome, obviously. Spring is verging on summer
                    and everybody in green will be at early mass tomorrow if Brian
                    O'Driscoll's team can deliver Ireland's first Championship in 25 years.
                    It will save going to bed.

                    Ireland's part of an
                    outcome made in heaven is that they must produce their best performance
                    of the season and thump the Italians by 20 points or more to set up a
                    points difference - they currently trail by four - that will really put
                    the French under pressure against Scotland later this afternoon.

                    was a time when that would almost be a formality, but no longer. Italy,
                    who have been suffering an injury crisis worse than any other nation,
                    are now made of stern stuff. Two Six Nations wins on the bounce have
                    earned an audience with the prime minister, but three would be
                    sensational and cement their place permanently in the Italian sporting

                    As their coach Pierre Berbizier said
                    yesterday: "In France we have an expression 'there is never two without
                    a third'." Which translates as meaning that good things come in threes.
                    Make no mistake - Italy want this game as much as Ireland.So the Flaminio Stadium will be a special arena
                    this afternoon, and very Irish. In early February, when Italy took an
                    unexpected pasting at home against France, the Italian Federation
                    panicked a little and put tickets for this match on the internet to
                    guarantee a full house. The Irish, intent on a St Patrick's weekend in
                    Rome, swooped and up to 17,000 of their supporters could be at the
                    ground this afternoon.

                    Two things need to happen if
                    Ireland are to succeed. Their much-vaunted back division needs to cut
                    loose in a way we have yet to see in the competition, although they
                    were formidably efficient against England and took their chances
                    brilliantly against Wales.

                    Brian O'Driscoll
                    (right), Gordon D'Arcy &amp; Co need to dictate the tempo of this game
                    and run Italy ragged for the full 80 minutes. O'Driscoll hinted as much
                    yesterday after a training session in blissful sunshine when he
                    insisted: "Ireland must produce things from the locker that some people
                    don't think we possess."

                    And secondly the Italians
                    need to hit the wall, although the predominant feature of their play
                    thus far has been their growing strength and stamina in the second half
                    of the game. It has, however, been an epic season for them
                    - in the last five months they have played 10 full internationals,
                    including two World Cup qualifiers before their autumn series and then
                    this highly physical Six Nations.

                    Over the last
                    seven weeks at various times they have been operating without such
                    class acts as Gonzalo Canale, Andrea Masi, Mauro Bergamasco, Fabio
                    Ongaro, Martin Castrogiovanni, Andrea Lo Cicero and Dennis Dallan, none
                    of whom are available today. It has tested their strength in depth and
                    eventually, you would think, something has to give.

                    pumped up with adrenalin and national pride this could be one match too
                    far for Berbizier's side. The likes of captain Marco Bortolami,
                    Santiago Delappe and Sergio Parisse - the hard core of their pack - are
                    tired and badly need a month's rest before building agai



                      <div>@@@@SPAN> From @@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN>The Times@@@@/SPAN></div><div>
                      March 17, 2007</div>
                      <h1>Ireland put style top of title agenda as Italy dare to dream</h1><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

                      <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
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                      What more appropriate place could there be for Ireland on St Patrick’s Day to
                      be tilting at a first outright championship since 1985? The hand that
                      compiled the fixture schedule at Six Nations headquarters in Dublin all
                      those months ago must have been hoping that Eddie O’Sullivan’s team would be
                      in Rome chasing a grand slam. It should have panned out that way.

                      But the beauty of sport and the uncertainty of this season’s RBS Six Nations
                      Championship means that the title is alive. It may not be within Ireland’s
                      control, but here, hope springs eternal. For those of a Roman Catholic
                      persuasion, the prospects could not be more intoxicating.

                      Ireland come here weary but buoyed by the level of support from at least
                      20,000 fans, many of whom have arrived via the Cheltenham Festival, the
                      prospect of a firm track and warm conditions leading Brian O’Driscoll to
                      hint at Irish intentions yesterday. It was almost a throwaway remark, but
                      the Ireland captain said that perhaps the various elements would combine to
                      enable his team to demonstrate “a style that some people may doubt we have
                      in our locker”.

                      Reading between the lines, Ireland are going to have a go, aiming to replicate
                      the quality of performance that blew Englnd away and which, by their own
                      admission, they have not matched before or since.
                      <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."->

                      Scotland tried a similar tactic in Edinburgh against Italy and came unstuck,
                      but they did not have the personnel to execute an ambitious game plan.
                      Ireland do. They want to end with a flourish and, with points difference
                      potentially crucial (Ireland trail France by a margin of four) set Les
                      a target in the match that follows in Paris this afternoon.
                      Anything more than 15 points could make it very interesting, because
                      Scotland will not want to be fodder for the French.

                      O’Sullivan, the coach, thinks that this is the best chance of a championship
                      that Ireland have had since the grand-slam showdown with England in 2003
                      (Ireland lost 42-6). He suggested yesterday that the match, at a sold-out
                      Stadio Flaminio, will be another dog-fight and that securing a win is all
                      that matters; the rest will take care of itself. He is taking nothing for

                      “Italy have the chance of three out of five wins. It would be a phenomenal
                      step forward,” he said. “It makes a statement for their World Cup. They have
                      an awful lot to play for. I said the same before Scotland and nobody
                      believed me. It turned out just as we expected. It’s never been easy getting
                      a result here and it is only going to become harder.”

                      O’Sullivan said that those who had predicted a big win at Murrayfield as a
                      matter of course were “whistling past the graveyard”. In O’Sullivan-speak,
                      that translates to something akin to pigs and flying.

                      Ireland without Paul O’Connell, whose absence is as detrimental to them as


                        Confident Italians aim to puncture Irish hopes

                        @@@@SPAN ="starrating">



                        By David Llewellyn in Rome

                        Published:17 March 2007

                        <div ="Copy">
                        <div ="article">

                        <div style=": ; top: 290px; visibility: visible;" id="article" ="ad">


                        <div id="CopyC&#111;ntent">

                        These are heady days for Italian Rugby. It will never overtake calcio
                        as the nation's number one sport, despite the trouble that football has
                        found itself in over the last month or so, but rugby union has
                        certainly raised its profile this season.

                        So much so that giant screens are being erected in the Piazza del
                        Popolo - from where Benito Mussolini used to address the nation - to
                        show all three of today's Six Nations matches.

                        Italy's victories over Scotland and Wales has not only earned them
                        government recognition - the team and various officials from the
                        Italian federation had an audience with Italy's Prime Minister Romano
                        Prodi on Thursday - but has also left them with an outside chance of
                        actually winning the Championship.

                        Such an outcome would require a string of unlikely results,
                        beginning with an Italian victory over Ireland at Rome's Stadio
                        Flaminio this afternoon.

                        "There's a French expression that says there's never two without a third," said a confident Pierre Berbizier, the Italy coach.

                        The enforced loss of inspirational flanker Mauro Bergamasco through
                        suspension is a body blow to the Italians, and the flu bug that has
                        laid low the prop Andrea Lo Cicero coupled with the injury to the
                        centre Gonzalo Canale can only have further undermined their hopes.

                        But Berbizier, the former France scrum-half and captain, can call on
                        some able replacements. Salvatore Perugini is no lightweight at
                        loose-head and Maurizio Zaffiri has shown a lot of promise in the back
                        row even if he lacks Bergamasco's experience.

                        Add to the mix the fact that Ireland have been inconsistent and
                        things do not look quite so bleak. Italy are not facing the Ireland
                        which blew away South Africa and Australia in the autumn.

                        Eddie O'Sullivan's men have performed in fits and starts: their
                        stunning performance against England was the exception rather than the
                        rule, underlined by a shaky showing against Scotland at Murrayfield
                        last weekend.

                        And Ireland will be without lock Paul O'Connell, who has a broken
                        thumb, and his absence will have heartened the Italy captain, Marco
                        Bortolami, who has emerged as a world-class line-out operator.

                        This all goes to suggest that they will have a hard time of it when
                        they face the confident Italians on their own turf today even if, as
                        some reports suggest, there will be 17,000 Irish supporters among the
                        25,000 sell-out crowd.

                        At least the captain, Brian O'Driscoll, is remaining upbeat. Having
                        begun the Championship as favourites for the Grand Slam, only to lose
                        the opening match against France, O'Driscoll said yesterday: "It is not
                        a ca


                          <h1>The verdict: four wise men with a feeling for France</h1>

                          The verdict: four wise men with a feeling for France

                          Coaches of the southern hemisphere giants assess today's Six Nations climax with one eye firmly on the World Cup</font>

                          Saturday March 17, 2007
                          The Guardian


                          <div id="GuardianArticle">France

                          1st: Pts diff+42. Title odds 2-5

                          Today v Scotland, Paris, 3.30pm

                          John Connolly, Australia coach

                          Laporte is unusual for a French coach in the way he makes defence his
                          priority, but they were undone by a lack of ambition against England
                          and you have to look at the average age of their forwards. That said,
                          they had a terrific win in Ireland and they are a side who, when the
                          wind is with them, can rip anyone apart if given space. I think they
                          will win the title today because they should not have too many problems
                          at home to Scotland, and when you look where they were coming from,
                          after being trounced twice by the All Blacks last November, that would
                          not be a bad return for them.

                          < ="text/" ="">


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                          Graham Henry, New Zealand coach

                          I will be getting tapes of all
                          this season's matches in due course and I would have thought France
                          would be reasonably satisfied with their campaign, despite last
                          weekend's defeat against England. They went well in their opening three
                          matches; it is never easy winning in Ireland and as they are hosting
                          the World Cup later this year their priority would have been to win all
                          their home games, a target they should achieve today.

                          Jake White, South Africa coach

                          way the fixtures are organised I think France will win the
                          championship. England are too far adrift for a start and the fact that
                          Ireland kick off first is the key. France will know exactly what they
                          have to do and they'll be smarting after last Saturday, with something
                          to prove to their home fans. The way the French keep the ball alive is
                          outstanding and once they get momentum it's very difficult to keep them
                          in check. They defend very, very well and they just have so many good
                          players in all positions to choose from - there are no weak links when



                            <h1>O'Sullivan calls for Irish focus in the eye of an Italian thunderstorm</h1>

                            Italy v Ireland</font>

                            Mike Averis in Rome
                            Saturday March 17, 2007
                            The Guardian


                            <div id="GuardianArticle">The
                            eve of St Patrick's day found Ireland strolling in the Rome sun in the
                            Via Vittorio Veneto, for all the world looking like Six Nations
                            champions-elect even if their coach, Eddie O'Sullivan, was predicting
                            storm clouds on the horizon. It is not what the weathermen say but
                            today in the Stadio Flaminio O'Sullivan forecasts thunder from an
                            Italian side still high on wins over Scotland and Wales, whom Ireland
                            have to beat convincingly to claim a first championship since 1985.<!-

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                            "We always have difficult games here," said O'Sullivan. "I have never
                            left Rome after a Six Nations match and said we've had an easy game.
                            We've won but we've had to work bloody hard and it's getting harder. If
                            Italy can win tomorrow they will have three wins out of five. It will
                            be a phenomenal success as a team and a real marker for the World Cup."

                            had just been asked about Ireland's chances of overhauling France's
                            points advantage - at present four: "I have too many things going on in
                            my head without wasting time with that stuff," replied the coach, who
                            described it as "whistling past a graveyard".

                            "If you go into the
                            game with notions of scoring points and thinking about the margin and
                            stuff you'll be in trouble. At the end of the day, once you've won,
                            that's when you look at the scoreboard. It's about us getting our
                            result and then see what happens in the other games."

                            kick off two hours before France, hoping to put down their own marker
                            for the World Cup and end the championship in the form they showed in
                            the autumn but only against England in the Six Nations. O'Sullivan says
                            it will be a dogfight but better preparation for France 2007 than those
                            convincing autumn wins over South Africa and Australia.

                            Nations rugby is very intense and teams in the northern hemisphere are
                            much better for it," said O'Sullivan. "We do joust with the southern
                            hemisphere at the end of our season and in the autumn and they are good
                            games, they are intense, but they are not Six Nations."

                            The prop
                            Marcus Horan is "95% certain" to play but Ireland will miss Paul
                            O'Connell's skills in discomfiting a solid Italian lineout. There will
                            be a Munster second-row pairing but this time Mick O'Driscoll lines up
                            alongside Donncha O'Callaghan for his first Six Nations start.

                            28, has eight caps but all as a replacement, a position he knows too
                            well at both Test and club level. He even spent two seasons with
                            Perpignan seeking first-team rugby after five largely on the Munster
                            bench. However, O'Connell's broken thumb gives O'Driscoll his chance.

                            are still smarting at the banning of their try-scoring flanker Mauro
                            Bergamasco for punching the Wales captain Stephen Jones and the lack of
                            "respect" the coach Pierre Berbizier believes his side has been shown.
                            "Italy should be treated like other nations. Last year Ireland's
                            [Brian] O'Driscoll and [Denis] Leamy were not judged for stamping on
                            the heads of Fabio Ongaro and Paul Griffen."

                            Berbizier's anger
                            may be an attempt to stoke Italian fires further but he has lost one of
                            his better players. Mauro, the elder brother of Mirco, is replaced by
                            the less experie



                              Ireland planning St Patrick's Day party</font>

                              Saturday March 17th 2007</font>

                              IF you are Irish and praying for a minor miracle on St Patrick's Day where would you choose to be? Rome, obviously.

                              Spring is verging on summer and everybody in green will be at early
                              mass tomorrow if Brian O'Driscoll's team delivers Ireland's first
                              Championship in 22 years - it will save them going to bed.

                              Ireland's part of an outcome made in heaven is that they must
                              produce their best performance of the season and thump the Italians by
                              20 points or more to set up a points difference - they currently trail
                              by four - that will really put the French under pressure against
                              Scotland later in the afternoon.

                              Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who rates prop Marcus Horan as 95%
                              certain to be fit, played down talk of the Grand Slam, insisting: "All
                              we're worried about is winning the match. It's dangerous to start
                              thinking about victory margins."

                              Over 17,000 Irish fans have descended on Rome to cheer on the team in a Super Saturday silverware scramble.

                              RUGBY SPECIAL: P2-7