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Parisse believes in Italy

Italy captain Sergio Parisse believes Ireland currently boast the strongest team in the northern hemisphere but insists the Azzurri can still win when the sides meet in the 6 Nations on Saturday week.

Italy open up their campaign at the Stadio Olimpico, knowing their opponents are in strong form after recording wins over South Africa and Australia in the autumn series.

Those victories pushed Ireland up to third in the IRB World Rankings and Parisse admits Italy are in for a tough game in 10 days' time.

"Ireland are probably the best team in the northern hemisphere - it is a chance for us to play them at home," Parisse said.

"Everyone saw how Ireland played in November.

"They are a very complete team, they have good backs, good forwards, they are very dynamic especially in terms of defence.

"They are good at the turnover, at building mauls and getting in front of teams - they are a difficult team to play against.

"I know they have some injuries but they will arrive with a very competitive side."

Italy recorded an historic 22-15 win when the two teams last met at Stadio Olimpico in 2013 but Ireland exacted revenge at home 12 months ago with a 46-7 victory.

"As Italians, we are not at the same level as Ireland," Parisse said.

"We beat them two years ago but last year they won by 40 points in Dublin.

"It is important for us to be competitive and see if we are really, really far from them or if we are able to play a full match at our best and beat a team like Ireland.

"It is important because we are going to play them in a few months' time at the World Cup.

"It is important for us mentally to know we can beat these teams.

"If we play 100 games against Ireland we would probably lose 98 so we have a small opportunity to beat them but we have to play every match with this ambition.

"We have to try to be competitive against every team we play at the 6 Nations."

After a superb 2013 campaign, which also included a 23-18 victory over France, Italy lost all their matches in last year's Championships and finished bottom of the table.

"We have shown we can be competitive and we can win like when we beat very good teams in 2013," Parisse added.

"But last year we played a poor 6 Nations and that is the difference between a great team and a team who can get a great result, but do not have the same consistency.

"That is the target this year - to have more consistency, especially in the three matches we play at home."

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