Rugby: SULLI OUT TO WORK UP AN ED OF STEAM FOR ITALIAN VISIT; Ireland V Italy, Lansdowne, Saturday Irish Boss Wants to Get Campaign off to a Flyer in Lansdowne Crunch
Byline: Michael SCULLY Chief Sports Writer
IT'S DECISION time for Eddie O'Sullivan as he names his side for Ireland's opening RBS Six Nations clash on Saturday.
The Ireland coach is not expected to spring any surprises as he seeks a confidence-boosting winning start over last year's wooden spoon side Italy, who have a new boss in Pierre Berbizier.
That means that the best back-line in the tournament will be given a chance to play an expansive game at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, with Brian O'Driscoll leading from the centre - and Gordon D'Arcy ready to show he is back to his very best alongside the skipper.
With pack veterans Anthony Foley, Shane Byrne and Reggie Corrigan left out of the 22-man squad it seems certain that O'Sullivan will opt for Mun-ster's Jerry Flannery at hooker for his full competitive debut.
Paul O'Connell and Malcolm O'Kelly will resume their partnership in the second-row while Johnny O'Connor is set to beat out the challenge of David Wallace for the outside flanker position, with Simon Easterby and Denis Leamy completing the back-row.
It's a game Ireland are expected to win but they are looking for a good performance as well ahead of the trip to Paris next week to take on the might of France.
The Italians are also hindered by injuries to key personnel and 54-times capped flanker Aaron Perisco concedes that makes their assignment all the harder.
But the New Zealand-born back-row player, who is with French side Agen, also believes that the Azzurri could provide a surprise or two.
"We are going to play three games away and two at home, which could be an advantage, especially the first one in Ireland where we can surprise our opponents," claimed Perisco. …