"Ireland play much better rugby than England" - Sergio Parisse
Sergio knows the craic. So does Conor O'Shea.
"We knew before this competition started," said O'Shea after his side's Dublin defeat, "that the first six days would be the hardest." Beside him, a battered Sergio Parisse nodded his head.
Italy had to start against the two sides likely to contest the title on the championship's final day - England first, Ireland next.
O'Shea admitted after his side's 56-19 loss that he always felt the Ireland game would prove toughest. He was right, but it didn't help prevent a trouncing.
Parisse had stated, previously, that he was on the verge of quitting Test rugby until O'Shea convinced him to stick around for another while longer. On days like this, he may well regret the decision.
Ireland and England have two games to negotiate yet in the 2018 campaign but they look on course to settle this one in Twickenham, on March 17. To Parisse's mind, Ireland have an edge. He commented:
"I think Ireland play much better rugby than England for me.
"It's much more difficult to defend against them, for me.
"For me personally it was far more difficult against Ireland. I like the way they play. For me they play very good rugby; yeah, they are better than England."
Joe Schmidt will do all he possibly can to prevent the island of Ireland from getting carried away.
Informed of Parisse's comments, Schmidt started to hype up Wales, the next opponents.
"If you'd said to me two weeks ago you'd have nine points and a 39-point differential," he began, "I'd have bitten your hand off.
"We do feel that we've gained a bit of confidence in going to France now, and to get the bonus point against Italy allows us a bit of confidence we're heading in the right direction.
"Wales will be a whole different scenario. They are very attacking as a defensive side and they squeeze you and force errors.
"For us where we are now, we've already started thinking forward because we don't really have too much time to reflect.
"I'll reflect overnight and work my way through the game, maybe on Tuesday evening we'll look back and then spring forward on Wednesday and Thursday morning."
They will spring forward, perhaps without Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong, but with a pep in their step.
The Hard Yards
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