Best focused on the present
SERGIO PARISSE is eager to end the RBS 6 Nations on a high with victory over Scotland to reward coach Jacques Brunel and the Rome faithful.
Italy, who are without a win in Brunel’s first tournament in charge since he succeeded Nick Mallett, came close to defeating England in their only home match in the tournament, losing 19-15 in no small part discipline not to be offside and not give away penalties at the breakdown.
“We need to be really sharp there and on our line, defend for our lives. Do that, and the game can be won against a good Italian side, who defend their territory passionately.”
Having gone into the tournament with high hopes the Scots know they have let themselves down as championship newcomer Dave Denton acknowledged. “It’s very tough,” he said. “We’re a proud bunch of guys and it’s tough to lose the first four games. It’s been hard to keep the heads up, but this weekend’s a great chance for us to start winning ways again.
“You could definitely see the disappointment after the Ireland game in ourselves because we know we’ve been capable of beating any team to Charlie Hodgson’s chargedown try.
Parisse, the captain, said: “It’s a fundamental match. There’s not just the desire to play a great match but there’s also the pressure to get a positive result. The reality is that both Scotland and ourselves have played good matches in this Six Nations.
“We’ve both been close to getting good results but at the end we find ourselves in this last match playing [to avoid] last place. we’ve played against in this Six Nations.
“We’ve shown that with ball in hand we’re very dangerous and when we defend well teams struggle to get on the front foot against us. I suppose the night after Ireland was pretty tough but it’s a quick six-day turnaround and we didn’t have time to dwell on it, the boys got up again pretty quickly. You don’t really need any extra motivation.
“In every game you know what’s at stake, you know you have the hopes of the nation behind you, so me personally I haven’t changed but it does put a bit of extra spice in to the performance.
“You can see a lot of the senior players who have been around the block a bit – you can see them stepping up and making sure everyone is pushing on,” Denton added.
“It’s not disappointing to play them for last place, it’s a match like all the others, and even more so because it’s at home and we have a responsibility to play well in front of our fans.
“It’s very important for our group and for Jacques because it’s not easy to start with a tournament like this. A win could help him continue his work with more serenity. It’s very important for us to be more consistent as a team,” he added. RORY BEST, the Ireland captain, yesterday sought to diffuse any hostility with England ahead of today’s match at Twickenham.
Flanker Stephen Ferris accused the English of being “bad losers” earlier in the week, while full-back Rob Kearney stated Ireland’s recent dominance of the fixture is because they are the superior team. But Best refused to pour more fuel on the fire.
“We know that in the past we’ve had some very tough games against England and we expect nothing different tomorrow,” the Ulster hooker said. “At this level, nobody particularly likes losing because we are competitive players. You only get to the top by being competitive.
“I’ve always found that if it’s been a tough, hard game, you have that respect for each other. Historically, England have always been there or thereabouts as Grand Slam champions.
“When I was growing up, England dominated this tournament. Once you’re lucky enough to play for Ireland you want to beat the best and that’s what England have been.”
Ireland have won seven of their last eight Six Nations meetings with England, including three of the last four at Twickenham, but Best insisted that record is irrelevant.
“Unfortunately, our record won’t have any impact – those games are in the past. It’s all about what happens at 5pm tomorrow evening,” added Best.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re playing the reigning Six Nations champions in their own back yard. They’ve won three of their four outings so we know they’re a very tough team.
“We’re looking forward to it but we’re under no illusions over the size of the challenge.”