Rugby Union: BRICK WALL WILL BE HARD TO GET PASTA; SIX NATIONS COUNTDOWN: IRELAND V ITALY, LANSDOWNE ROAD, SATURDAY 2pm David & Co Determined to Cook Up a Blue Murder
Byline: Orla BANNON
DEFENCE is the buzz-word in the Irish camp ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy.
Fans will turn up to Lansdowne Road expecting Ireland to devour the minnows in a try-scoring feast, but David Wallace claims it's the points conceded column the team is most interested in.
In their three matches to date, Ireland have scored more than Six Nations rivals France and England.
With 108 points compared to 90 (France) and 89 (England), the Irish would expect to increase their advantage at home to the weakest team in the competition.
But with 77 points conceded, it's way more than the miserly English (34) or the French (60) and that's a concern to new coach Eddie O'Sullivan and the Irish team.
"On the whole the championship so far been positive, with two good victories over Scotland and Wales," said Wallace.
"England was a big setback to us but it highlighted problems that we've since maybe not totally hammered down. At least we've now identified areas that we need to work on.
"You always have to have a strong defence anyway, it doesn't matter what system you're working."
If Ireland can sort out their lineout problems and actually get their hands on the ball, the defence should be under less scrutiny.
The arrival of Mike Ford as defence specialist this season has certainly focused everyone's attention on that key area though Wallace insists: "It's not all new.
"It's not a different science or anything, but there are different patterns alrigh.
"But I think the more we train and the more we play, everyone's getting more comfortable with it."
France's surprise victory over England has set up Ireland's trip to Paris in a fortnight's time as a possible championship decider.
Such talk has been banned in the Irish dressing-room.
"We try not to look at the overall thing, the Italian game's coming up and that's what's on the cards at the moment," claims the Garryowen flanker.
"If we try and take on too much at once we lose sight of what we have to do.
"We have to go out, get a good performance and hopefully get a win.
"I suppose we wouldn't be human if the France game wasn't in the back of our minds.
Life just couldn't be much better for Wallace at the moment.
His great form for Munster over the past few years propelled him into the Irish set-up 12 months ago and then he followed in the footsteps of brothers Richard and Paul by earning a late call-up to the Lions tour last summer.
His first Six Nations experience came in Rome last year and he warns although they've lost their three games so far against Scotland, Wales and France nobody has put Italy away easily.
"The game probably didn't go the way we wanted it to go last year," he recalls.
"Rob (Henderson) got a hat-trick I think, he had an outstanding game but Italy have proved themselves time and time again as a team very difficult to play against. …