Ireland two steps from Grand Slam glory as Farrell hails Rome visitors for winning 'proper Test match'

By Sports Desk February 25, 2023

Andy Farrell was relieved Ireland "found a way" to overcome an impressive Italy side as his team stayed on course for a Grand Slam by winning 34-20 in Rome.

Mack Hansen crossed for two tries, including a late clincher to end Italian hopes, with James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Bundee Aki also going over as the visitors picked up a bonus point.

It means Ireland are three-fifths of the way to a clean sweep in this season's Six Nations, with Scotland away in a fortnight's time followed by England coming to Dublin.

Head coach Farrell could not be sure his team would survive unscathed against Italy until the closing stages, and he gave the hosts plenty of credit for that.

Farrell said: "I suppose the positive is the chances we did create, but the negative is we didn't take them all.

"What was it, four or five tries we left out there? But all credit must go to Italy, that was a proper Test match, that was tough, they're a proper side.

"Everyone can see the progression, but when you're here and you're facing it... they were tough, they were resilient, and the forwards gave us absolutely nothing.

"Defending their own line they were very physical, and in attack they were cutting us open from time to time, so congratulations to them, I thought they were great.

"We let them into the game through lack of discipline at times and didn't control the game as well as we should do in that regard.

"But Test match rugby doesn't go your way the whole time, and we found a way, even though we threw away four or five tries. It's nice the bonus-point win away from home."

Scotland, who tackle France on Sunday in Paris, have also begun this championship with successive wins.

It could, depending on Scotland's performance this weekend, be a clash between two unbeaten sides in Edinburgh on March 12.

"Going to Murrayfield is a really tough place to go," said Farrell, "as is here in Rome."

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Nicolo Barella

    Barella registered more assists than any other Italy player during Euro 2024 qualifying (three) and created seven more chances than any other Italian player (15). Barella also assisted two goals during Italy's victorious Euro 2020 campaign. The Azzurri will be hoping he can get fit in time to start the tournament.

    Albania – Jasir Asani

    Asani was Albania's joint-top goalscorer during Euro 2024 qualifying, scoring three times (level with Nedim Bajrami). All three of his strikes were scored from outside the box.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ITALY WIN

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

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    Draw – 19.6%

    Albania – 14.2%

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