It may be Valentine’s weekend but the last time Ireland went to the Stadio Flaminio in Rome to face Italy it was the boys in green that were left heartbroken.
Ireland entered the last day of the 2007 Six Nations Championship still in with a chance of winning and they duly put Italy to the sword 60-20 but a late try for the Azzuri cut the points deficit and France done enough against Scotland to take the title.
Irish flanker David Wallace remembers the contrasting emotions he felt that day when Ireland were ultimately denied a first championship since 1985 by the video referee.
“It was very disappointing, we were on a high from the game but a bit disappointed in the changing rooms that we had let in a couple of tries, recalled Wallace.
“It was just that kind of game, it was open, a bit freer and the weather was good. Watching France against Scotland in the hotel was very tense and you just got a sense that France would do it,” added the flanker.
Wallace is regarded as one of Ireland’s so called golden generation, he has won three triple crowns and to Heineken Cups with Munster but admits as the side gets older they are running out of chances to win the championship which has eluded them for 23 years.
“You kind of kick yourself when you miss chances like 2007, you definitely think about it and talk about it,” said Wallace.
“It’s a big regret but you use it to drive yourself on and I think there is a desire in the team never to have that feeling again.”
“As the team ages and guys get closer to retirement one of the things you don’t want to be left with is the feeling of coming quite close to achieving something without having quiet done it,” reasoned Wallace.
Ireland have a 100% against Italy in the championship and will travel to the Eternal City full of confidence after the victory of France.
Complacency may be a bigger opponent to Ireland than Nick Mallett’s men but Wallace maintains the side are focussed for Sunday’s clash.
“We don’t want to mess up now having got a great win and we know what a big challenge it is going to be going to Rome.”
The Italians have been on the end of stringing criticism since last Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham when Mallett decided to play flanker Mauro Bergamasco and Wallace felt sympathy for his fellow openside.
“I was difficult for him and I just image myself being put in that position and being asked to play scrum half, it’s a very difficult position and I think everyone understands he was playing out of position, he’s a world class player and I’m sure it won’t affect him too much.”
With Bergamasco likely to be restored to the pack beside Sergio Parisse in the back row and the tough scrummaging front row Italy are going to want to rectify what happened in London and Wallace is bracing himself for a forward battle.
“Italy play a physical game and every year they take a couple of scalps and we don’t want to be the ones this year,” he said.
“They still have quality players in their team and have huge experience in their pack and it’s going to be a tough challenge.”