Andrew Trimble wants Ireland to open up the defence of their Six Nations crown with all guns blazing today.
After winning the Grand Slam last season, Ireland enter the championship as the team everyone wants to beat with Italy the first team out to upset Declan Kidney’s heroes.
Croke Park, however, should see a home victory and Ulsterman Trimble, back in the international fold after a period on the sidelines, is determined that the Irish hit the ground running.
“Obviously we want to open with a big, big performance and put a marker down. That’s important to us,” said Trimble.
“Last season was fantastic for Ireland winning the Grand Slam, but we know that we have to deliver again, starting against Italy.”
The Italian job gives Trimble the perfect opportunity to announce himself on international rugby again and he can’t wait.
He says: “This time last year I just wasn’t performing as I had in previous seasons. I knew that.
“But now I feel I’m performing as well, if not better, than in previous years and I’m relishing playing for Ireland again.”
Meanwhile, after ending Ireland's 61-year wait for a Grand Slam, captain Brian O'Driscoll wants the team to build on that triumph.
“There's an element of the monkey now being off our back, but that's come and gone,” O'Driscoll said. “You just forget that and look to another campaign, putting the same pressure on yourself to perform.
“We've spoken about expectations and we know we can't remain stagnant, otherwise other teams will pass us by. That's our sole focus.”
While Italy are favourites to finish bottom of the Six Nations standings again, Jamie Heaslip fears the Azzurri could be out for revenge after its club sides were refused entry to the Magners League, the competition featuring sides from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Talks into the addition of two Italian clubs into the tournament broke down over the league's financial demands, a huge blow for
Italy's hopes of becoming more competitive in the Six Nations.
“Italy are a class outfit and they might feel they have something to prove,” Heaslip said. “They might have something against the Irish team now that Italy didn't get the nod for the Magners League.”