HomeWorldIreland back-row expecting tougher Italy test after France 'didn't challenge us'

Ireland back-row expecting tougher Italy test after France ‘didn’t challenge us’

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Jack Conan is expecting Italy to be more of a test to the Ireland defence after they eased past France in Marseille last weekend.

Andy Farrell’s men claimed a dominant 38-17 triumph over Les Bleus to put them on course for a second consecutive Grand Slam.

Ireland’s next challenge comes on Sunday when they take on the Italians in the Six Nations and Conan believes that they have to be wary of the Azzurri threat.

Different challenge

“France didn’t attack particularly well and they didn’t challenge us a whole lot, if we’re really honest with ourselves,” he told reporters.

“I know it was a massive win but Italy pose a completely different attacking picture and they will play from anywhere and take any opportunity, so it’s going to be a massive defensive challenge for us.”

Italy have brought in Gonzalo Quesada as their new head coach and there was an immediate improvement as they scored two excellent first-half tries against England.

Although the Azzurri were unable to build on that 17-8 advantage they held at one stage, Conan felt it showed what Quesada’s team are capable of.

“They’re a quality side. Some of the tries they scored against England at the weekend, they’re more than capable of pulling off a few scalps,” he said.

“You have the feeling that it’s coming, so there’s no easy games and we’re under no illusions that this is going to be tough.”

One person who will be particularly key in stopping any Italian momentum is talented young lock Joe McCarthy.

The Leinster second-row was excellent against France in both the loose and set-piece, and Conan praised the 22-year-old’s performance.

“Ah, I just get out of the big man’s way when he’s wrecking people and trying to destroy mauls and things,” the experienced forward said.

“He’s a good man for standing on your feet and stuff in training – so I can only imagine what he’s like when he’s hammering through teams and mauls and stuff.

“To be fair to Joe, he’s done unbelievable well for a man of his age.

“And I think he just adds something so different with his physique and his style of play, he’s just a big bruiser, isn’t he, just lumping into people and he’s a great bloke as well.”

Different persona off the field

Conan added: “It’s funny, you see him on the pitch and he’s causing havoc and just destroying things, and then he’s just such a placid and chilled guy in training.

“He’s very jovial and has the craic and stuff and he’s just able to flick that switch and go out and destroy rucks and mauls and things like that.

“I think he’s someone who has come on and leaps and bounds in the last few months and it’s a joy to see.

“He’s an incredibly hard working fella so I’m sure the sky’s the limit for him and we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what he is capable of.”

READ MORE: Nick Easter’s Six Nations predictions: One away win on the cards

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