Ireland must beware Parisse and Co in last Six Nations Championship match, especially in the final 10 minutes
It will take a monumental performance from Ireland to stop Italy in Rome
Luciano Orquera of Italy kicks the ball down field during the RBS Six Nations match England and Italy at Twickenham. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images.
Energy is the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. As the clock ticked past 70 minutes in Twickenham, England led Italy 18-11. up to that point Italy were forced to out-tackle England by 98 tackles to 83. Fifteen doesn’t appear a large margin but you tackle Manusamoa Tuilagi and co 15 times!
However, in the closing 10 minutes, down seven points having suffered a sin binning and some tough referee decisions the Italians improved remarkably in their spatial awareness and gain line play. Italy’s play with ball in hand swung the stats completely; where they had been making the tackles now it was England’s turn.
By the 76th minute England’s tackles had jumped to 107. By the final whistle their tackle count had ballooned to 134 to Italy’s 105 and in powering over the finish line Italy asked many questions of England which they struggled to answer as they missed 6 of the 14 made in this period.
Though at home, unbeaten England made 51 tackles in those closing minutes to Italy’s 7: worrying times for Ireland tomorrow. The great unknown in tomorrow’s fixture is energy levels. I’m sure there is a machine that measures energy levels and I’d be fascinated to read Mike Ross’s results.
Last Saturday he played 80 minutes against the French, who rotated their frontrow. He was totally spent and almost incapable of standing. His recovery could take months. He, of course, is an extreme example but the walking wounded declared fit are in for a massive test tomorrow; Irish energy levels against Italian ability. Bar a few missing links the Italians are very good in general play, most notably with ball in hand.
The lazy assumption is Italy will test Ireland in the set-piece but against Wales the Italians were smashed up front and at times in Twickenham were battered in the scrum. On the first English scrum put-in England went for the old-fashioned massive eight-man drive with no strike from the hooker; they got the mental fillip in earning a penalty within two minutes.
Italy, through Martin Castrogiovanni, were forced up and subsequently backwards. After a few more horrors he was gone by 28 minutes. Outside the set-piece, I’ve enjoyed Italy’s spatial awareness, lines of running and general movement, whether around the front of a lineout or scrum, with the deftest of offloads from Sergio Parisse. Although their game hinges on his every movement they have many fine players.
However, like Frederic Michalak, Italy outhalf Luciano Orquera’s role could prove advantageous to Ireland. Dropped after the Scotland game and back in against England, he kicks off long and left, with Parisse hanging back; please avoid Parisse when box-kicking. Interestingly, Orquera rarely receives the ball.
Yes, England had the lion’s share but nearly every Italian stood up as first receiver, bar Orquera, who was happy to watch. It wasn’t till 26:57 that Orquera received his second pass from his scrumhalf. That’s a long time away from the tiller, where so much happens around the Italian 10 channel.