Italy coach Nick Mallett has called on his players to summon up the spirit of the South Pacific to win on the biggest stage of all today.
The Azzurri are looked upon as the Six Nations’ whipping boys but a win over Samoa in November demonstrated the positive strides made under Mallett.
They won the final Test of last year against the Samoans 24-6 to finally nail a 13-match winless streak and now Mallett wants to recreate the spirit shown against them to record a rare win against one of the big guns from the northern hemisphere.
And continuity is the key for Mallett as he has stuck with the squad that beat Samoa for the clash against Declan Kidney’s men.
“Those players in the Test matches in November played good rugby, especially against the All Blacks and Samoa,” said Mallett.
“Against Samoa, we collected our first-ever victory. I have called on that team that won in Ascoli showing great attitude and courage, despite the absence of (injured captain Sergio) Parisse.
“We also recover two players that are important in Marco Bortolami and Andrea Masi, who will start on Saturday from the bench.”
Mallett though is fully aware of the task that faces his side in Dublin — up against the Grand Slam winners and a team that only enjoyed the sweet taste of success last year.
“Ireland never lost in 2009,” said Mallett.
“They are the defending champions and a team of the highest level.
“I expect a similar game with respect to two years ago at Croke Park, which marked my first as coach of Italy.
“We need to put pressure on their scrum, be efficient in touch and in our foot play but above all, not give anything to them on defence for the entire 80 minutes.”
Two years ago, Italy pushed Ireland before conceding a 16-11 defeat at Croke Park.
The Azzurri will have to overcome the absence of number eight Parisse, who is out with a knee injury, so Leonardo Ghiraldini will serve as captain for the entire tournament.
Mallett is confident Ghiraldini will succeed in his new role.
“Ghiraldini is an athlete that is different from Parisse from a character standpoint,” said Mallett.
“It's important for Italy to be able to have for the 6 Nations a captain like Leonardo, who represents the first choice for us and has practically been a starter since I took over the national team.”