Azzurri have Magners snub point to prove, warns Heaslip

Ireland begin their quest to win back-to-back Grand Slams when they open their Six Nations defence against Italy at Croke Park today.

After ending their 61-year wait for a Grand Slam, captain Brian O'Driscoll wants Ireland to build on that triumph. "There's an element of the monkey now being off our back," he said. "You just forget that and look to another campaign, putting the same pressure on yourself to perform. We've spoken about expectations and we know we can't remain stagnant otherwise other teams will pass us by."

O'Driscoll has been reunited with Leinster team-mate Gordon D'Arcy in the midfield, a partnership that has proved effective in the past. D'Arcy has been rewarded for his fine club form, displacing Ulster's Paddy Wallace. "I'm pleased that Gordon is back. It took him time, a while to get back from that broken arm – he was out for a year," O'Driscoll added.

While Italy are favourites to finish bottom of the Six Nations again, Jamie Heaslip fears the Azzurri could be out for revenge after the club sides were refused entry to the Magners League.

"Italy are a class outfit and they might feel they have something to prove," Heaslip said. "They might have something against the Irish team now that Italy didn't get the nod for the Magners League. We play against the Italian players in the Heineken Cup – they're big and they bash you about. They hit hard, have some skilful players and seriously good finishers."

The Italy coach, Nick Mallett, will use the same squad from November's win over Samoa that ended a 13-game losing streak, including all five in last season's Six Nations.

Ireland v Italy: Croke Park teams

Ireland

Kearney (Leinster) 15

Bowe (Ospreys) 14

O'Driscoll (Leinster) 13

D'Arcy (Leinster) 12

Trimble (Ulster) 11

O'Gara (Munster) 10

O'Leary (Munster) 9

Healy (Leinster) 1

Flannery (Munster) 2

Hayes (Munster) 3

Cullen (Leinster) 4

O'Connell (Mun, c) 5

McLaughlin (Leinster) 6 

Wallace (Munster) 7

Heaslip (Leinster) 8

Replacements:

16 Best (Ulster); 17 Court (Ulster); 18 Ryan (Munster); 19 O'Brien (Leinster); 20 Reddan (Leinster); 21 Wallace (Ulster); 22 Earls (Munster)

Italy

McLean (Treviso) 15

Robertson (Viadana) 14

Canale (Clermont) 13

Garcia (Treviso) 12

Mi Bergamasco (Stade) 11

Gower (Bayonne) 10

Tebaldi (Parma) 9

Perugini (Bayonne) 1

Ghiraldini (Treviso, c) 2

Castrogiovanni (Leic) 3

Del Fava (Viadana) 4

Geldenhuys (Viadana) 5

Sole (Viadana) 6

Ma Bergamasco (Stade) 7

A Zanni (Treviso) 8

Replacements: 16 Ongaro; 17 Aguero (both Saracens); 18 Bortolami (Glouc); 19 Derbyshire (Padova); 20 Picone (Treviso); 21 Bocchino (Rovigo); 22 Masi (Racing Metro)

Referee R Poite (France)

Kick-off 2.30pm TV BBC1

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone