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Italians planning to get to grips with Toner but it's a tall order

By Robert Jones

Italy will seek to nullify Ireland's lineout threat by steering completely clear of Devin Toner in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash in Rome.

Azzurri lock George Biagi has admitted the only way to combat towering Leinster second row Toner's lineout acumen is to avoid any contest altogether.

The 14-cap Zebre star insisted Conor O'Shea's men have a plan to bypass the 6ft 11in Toner at the set-piece in a bid to secure themselves a platform.

"I played against Devin about a month ago in the PRO12 and there's a good respect between us," said Biagi.

"In the lineout you have to try to stay as far away from him as possible, because he's able to cover the last few feet virtually on his own."

Ireland struggled for lineout rhythm in Saturday's 27-22 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield, botching a host of promising early attacking opportunities.

Italy remain wary of Ireland's set-piece threat however, with Biagi admitting the hosts will seek to mix up their approach in Rome this weekend to keep Toner and company guessing.

Biagi continued: "We will have to move him around and to stay in front of him at the lineout, because if you find yourself behind him it is difficult to counter."

Italy will hope captain and talisman Sergio Parisse will shake off a neck problem in time for Saturday's clash.

The 122-cap stalwart suffered the blow in Italy's 33-7 loss to Wales at the weekend that has O'Shea's men already targeting defensive improvement.

Biagi believes Ireland will offer greater threats out wide than Wales' direct power game, and has challenged the Azzurri not to let Saturday's visitors hit their attacking stride.

"We are talking about a completely different opponent from Wales, playing much more expansive rugby with very strong players in each role," said Biagi.

"It will be important not to give them the initiative, and we'll need to stop them in the way that Scotland did.

"If we let them play in multi-phase we'll make life extremely difficult for ourselves."

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