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Irish must get off to flyer to hammer Italians: Mallett

By David Kelly

Former Italian head coach and one-time record-breaking South African supremo Nick Mallett has issued a warning to Ireland as they chase a potential bonus point in Rome this afternoon to restore their title chances after last weekend's RBS Six Nations Murrayfield implosion.

And Mallett, who now works as an expert number-cruncher with the Accenture analyst team, has also urged Joe Schmidt's side to deviate from their overly attritional approach to the business of try-scoring in order to swiftly vindicate their status as the world's fourth-best rugby nation.

Mallett lost all four Six Nations matches against Ireland during his spell in charge of the Azzurri between 2007 and 2011, before also losing a World Cup pool game, but his side twice came close to an upset, Ronan O'Gara's late drop-goal securing a narrow win six years ago.

"The championship is very much alive," says the 63-year-old, who is semi-retired and working for South African TV.

"Ireland will be disappointed but the first 40 minutes are always tough in Rome. Ireland have to do what Wales didn't do so well last weekend and that is take their points rather than kick to the line as the Welsh did three times in the first quarter.

"Take your early three points, go back down to put them under pressure, and take another three points. Kick a drop-goal if you have to.

"Get nine points ahead in the first 20 minutes and don't try to go for tries from driving mauls or expansive play from the opening whistle.

"But they do need a bonus point because they need to win the next two games to set up a winner-takes-all in the final game, provided England don't get too many bonus points beforehand."

Mallett is convinced that Ireland would make their first World Cup semi-final were the competition to take place this season.

However, he insists that Schmidt's side must re-assert themselves against weaker teams like Scotland and Italy.

"They are a top-four team now and they need to assume that mantle," he said.

"The type of rugby they played against the All Blacks (in Chicago) was extraordinary and that must be the benchmark."

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