Kidney saves cordon bleu recipe for France

Ireland 29 Italy 11
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The Independent Online

If this was the hors d'ouevre before next weekend's entrée in the Stade de France, it was an appetiser which was enough to whet the appetite without quite hitting the spot.

However, Saturday's workmanlike victory over an outclassed Italy left the Ireland coach, Declan Kidney, more positives than negatives – not least the fact he can now bring his Grand Slam champions to a venue where they have not won for 10 years without being overburdened by expectation.

For this was not a performance to set the pulses racing and there was a definite impression that Ireland, particularly in their backline play, had plenty in reserve. Such is the psychological significance of victory in Paris, as Kidney's squad progresses towards the World Cup, that it is safe to expect the full Monty next Saturday, with moves the French will not have seen.

Such is the paucity of Italian attacking ambition that Ireland never had to search for their extra gears. The Italy coach, NickMallett, admitted as much afterwards when he said the second-half scoreline of 6-3 to Ireland was eminently pleasing on the basis of Italy's pre-match intention to prevent a hammering from superior opponents.

This damage limitation exercise was based on committed defence and dogged scrapping at the breakdown. When they had the ball, Italy's lack of ambition was embarrassing. Time and again, they worked possession to pods of runners standing close to the ruck – even when inside their own half – a policy which achieved nothing more than running down the clock. Craig Gower at outside-half had nothing to work with outside him, kicked poorly and did not present any meaningful threat with ball in hand.

Their try came directly from Irish hesitancy and, while they deserve credit for sustained second-half cussedness, overall Mallett's Six Nations mixture looks destined to be stirred by yet another wooden spoon.

There was no sense of self-congratulation in the Ireland camp, rather a quiet satisfaction at the performance of the set piece and an acknowledgement that there is a need for improvement going into a seminal weekend.

Scorers: Ireland: Tries Heaslip, O'Leary; Conversions O'Gara 2; Penalties O'Gara 4, Wallace; Italy: Try Robertson; Penalties Gower, Mirco Bermagasco.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, A Trimble (K Earls, 55); R O'Gara (P Wallace, 65), T O'Leary (E Reddan, 73); C Healy, J Flannery (R Best, 55), J Hayes (T Court, 72), L Cullen, P O'Connell (D Ryan, 60), K McLaughlin, D Wallace (S O'Brien, 72), J Heaslip.

Italy: L McLean; K Robertson (A Masi, 58), G Canale, G Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco; C Gower (R Bocchino, 65-73), T Tebaldi (S Picone, 65); S Perugini (Castrogiovanni, 72), L Ghiraldini (capt, F Ongaro, 72), M Castrogiovanni (M Aguero, 55), C Del Fava (M Bortolami, 49), Q Geldenhuys, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, A Zanni.

Referee: R Poite (France).