Different circumstances, certainly, but news of the imminent departures from Ulster and Munster could have hardly come at a less opportune juncture in the season for DeclanKidney, who could do without any and all distractions right now.
News of McGahan’s return to Australia broke only hours after thenational team’s media duties were completed earlier this week but provincial ructions should have no ill effects on matters if Andrew Trimble’s testimony is anything to go by.
“No, it’s been great actually for us because we’ve got our Ireland heads on at the moment,” said the wing of events in Belfast. “I haven’t played for Ulster, been in an Ulster session. I’ve been in a couple of meetings. There’s a lot of stuff going on there. It’s quite complicated.
“I don’t know what’s happening and who’s involved. For me, I’ve got my Ireland head on and I’m quite enjoying having just one thing to think about. It’s about being single-minded.”
The tendency is to say ‘well, he would say that’ but Trimble is an engaging conversationalist and didn’t shirk the issue when asked about Ireland’s disappointing start to the Six Nations. The three weeks since have seen the focus zero in on everything from the team’s passive defence to the absence of You Know Who but Trimble boiled it down to one thing. Intensity. Or lack of.
“That’s something Italy always bring. They are developing other sides to their game as well, width and whatever, but I think when it comes to us, that intensity has to be 100% whenever we pull on the green shirt.”
The problem with intensity is that it is an intangible. It is not a technique that can be coached. Very few teams can deliver it everyday.
Not that Trimble agrees. For him, intensity should be a natural by-product of being handed a green jersey regardless of the opposition.
That Ireland lacked against Wales was apparent from the initial exchanges when a short lineout caught them on the hop but it provides something concrete the players can seek to eradicate.
“We have it, whatever it is. It’s there and everyone can see it and everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about. When that intensity is there from an Irish side, teams are scared to look at us. They can’t keep up. They can’t compete with us physically and we need to bring that at the weekend.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s long-running struggle to find an out-half continues after Jacques Brunel dropped Kris Burton and replaced him with Tobias Botes for a first start. Born in South Africa, Botes chalked up two appearances as a replacement against France and England and he is one of four changes made to the XV which were beaten by England in Rome two weekends’ ago.
Alberto Sgarbi takes over from Gonzalo Canale at first centre, Treviso loosehead prop Michele Rizzo makes his Six Nations debut in place of Andrea Lo Cicero while Lorenzo Cittadini replaces the injured Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni.