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Best: We'll be punished if we ignore Italy threat

Skipper adamant Irish won't lose their focus

By Jonathan Bradley

With France out of the way, and their Triple Crown rivals all still to come, Ireland captain Rory Best yesterday warned that nobody in his camp would be allowed to look beyond the challenge of Italy in the Aviva Stadium this afternoon (2.15pm kick-off).

As soon as the fixtures for this year's Championship were announced, Irish fans began salivating at the prospect of a potential Six Nations Grand Slam decider against England in Twickenham on St Patrick's Day, but the Ulster hooker was in no mood to look any further than the challenge of Conor O'Shea's side after his captain's run.

"When you pull on an Irish jersey there's a certain expectation placed upon you to produce a performance," said Best of a game that bookies have the hosts down to win by 34 points.

"I've been in teams that have lost to Italy and they're a really tough proposition.

"We know we've got to start well and we've got to do our things right.

"There are guys (winning) first caps, first Six Nations and they're going to be nervous. It's important to make a big start and calm those nerves and try to impose ourselves on what will be a really tricky game.

"Anyone underestimating Italy isn't within our group because we know it's a tough game."

After results last week, a maximum of two teams can end today with a 100% record.

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