Sergio Parisse: Italy also feeling the pressure ahead of Ireland showdown
Sergio Parisse has laughed off suggestions Ireland are under greater pressure for victory than Italy in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown.
Italy captain Parisse insisted the Azzurri will feel the squeeze more than the hosts in Dublin, despite both sides chasing their first win in this year's Six Nations.
The talismanic number eight believes Italy have been written off ahead of the Aviva Stadium meeting, where Ireland are itching to end a four-match winless streak dating back to the World Cup.
Ireland are chasing victories over Italy and Scotland to avoid slipping from champions to also-rans, but Parisse says the Azzurri face the greater pressure in bidding to avoid their 11th Wooden Spoon in 17 years.
"Nobody expects us to win tomorrow, and yet we're talking about a lot of pressure on Ireland, who have not won a match in this year's Six Nations," said Parisse.
"We must not let Ireland play. They are a great team, they know how to be extremely dangerous.
"They have won the last two tournaments and will want to finish this year's competition in the best way possible.
"They have many injuries but we have a lot of absences too.
"That must not be an excuse, but an opportunity for young players to prove themselves."
Parisse will equal Martin Castrogiovanni's record of 118 Italy caps on Saturday, desperate to lead Jacques Brunel's men back to winning ways after three defeats so far in this year's tournament.
Italy have only ever won once in Dublin, back in 1997, with Parisse admitting the visitors must sharpen up considerably from their 36-20 defeat to Scotland in the last round to stand any chance of a rare triumph on Irish soil.
"We cannot afford to gift them easy points in the opening quarter like we did against the Scots," said Parisse.
"We conceded two tries from mistakes in the first quarter, and we have not always converted chances into points.
"We have to score when we have the opportunity.
"We've got to start well, stay in contact on the scoreboard."