Ireland full-back Luke Fitzgerald admitted that Ireland were close to crafting their own downfall against Italy on Saturday by failing to finish chances.
The full-back conceded, too, that they must improve if they are to do more damage to others’ causes rather than to their own between now and the close of play on March 19.
“There was a big sigh of relief from everyone at full-time. Obviously we put ourselves under an awful lot more pressure than we’d like,” was his honest assessment of Ireland’s smash and grab 13-11 victory over the Italians.
While many Italian fans leaving Stadio Flaminio muttered about “lucky Ireland” Fitzgerald painted a much more positive picture.
“There were an awful lot of positives to take from that. We got together well, we gathered ourselves on the line and there was no panic,” was his take of events in the immediate aftermath of Italian full-back Luke McLean’s 75th minute try which put the hosts in the driving seat with an 11-10 lead against 14 men, Denis Leamy having been yellow-carded 101 seconds before that touchdown.
Fortunately Mirco Bergamasco’s conversion attempt sailed wide, meaning a score of any sort would restore Ireland’s lead.
“I thought we did really well to get ourselves within drop-goal range and the rest is history as they say — ROG (Ronan O’Gara) did a great job and we managed to hang on,” Fitzgerald added.
Admitting that Ireland will need to take a good hard look at what exactly were wrong on Saturday, he continued: “My first impression after the game was that we probably created an awful lot of opportunities and we just weren’t very clinical.
“That was disappointing because I think that will probably keep the pressure on us for next week. As we get more comfortable with each other hopefully we can improve that and be a bit more clinical next week.”
Highlighting what Ireland’s objective had been he said: “At times we were trying to create a bit of width and I think when we did that we put them under pressure.
“Everyone’s probably getting more comfortable and there’s a bit more of an understanding among the squad as to what we’re trying to achieve so that was definitely a positive to take out of the game.”