Since the advent of professionalism and the rise in the status of the Rugby World Cup after its rushed introduction in 1987 against the wishes of the four unions in Britain and Ireland, the sport at international level now tends to operate in four-year cycles.
The problem with playing against Italy, especially at home, is that everyone is expecting a cakewalk and even when you deliver a comprehensive win, as Ireland did Saturday, invariably it comes with caveats, writes
A game Jordan Larmour will treasure. Tradition dictates that those making their debuts keep that first, prized jersey and one from the opposite ranks and Larmour suspects his parents already have claims on one or both of those from Saturday.
As an emotional Conor O’Shea assessed a seventh, consecutive Six Nations defeat on his watch, as Italy’s head coach, on Saturday night, he insisted the Azzurri had no option but to keep the head down and continue making the hard yards.