Ireland’s Six Nations defence gets tougher from here on in – Andy Farrell

Ireland’s Six Nations defence gets tougher from here on in – Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell warned Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title defence “gets tougher from here” after his side swatted aside Italy.

The reigning champions registered a thumping 36-0 bonus-point win to back up last week’s statement success away to pre-tournament favourites France.

Winless Wales visit Dublin on February 24 before Ireland finish their campaign with March appointments against England and Scotland.

Head coach Farrell feels his team have made a “decent start” to the championship as they seek to make history by claiming back-to-back Grand Slams.

“Obviously delighted with two from two and maximum points, 36-0 is a nice scoreline for us,” he said.

“To put in a performance like that where I thought we were clinical at times, I thought our set piece was excellent, top drawer, and then scoring some nice tries on the back of all that type of pressure was very pleasing to get over the line.

“Two from two. It’s a decent start. It gets tougher from here on in.”

Jack Crowley’s first senior try set Ireland on course for victory before Dan Sheehan’s double and scores from Jack Conan, James Lowe and Calvin Nash completed a routine success.

The one-sided result was the first time Ireland had nilled a team in the championship since a 17-0 triumph over England in the 1987 Five Nations.

Stand-in captain Caelan Doris, who deputised for the injured Peter O’Mahony, said: “Keeping them to zero was definitely very pleasing given the quality of their attack.

“It was something we talked about during the week, they’ve a lot of structure in their attack and they’ve got threats throughout.

“I don’t think it’s a mean feat keeping them to zero and we’re happy with that, definitely.”

Farrell made six personnel changes for Sunday afternoon’s contest, which took place in front of a subdued capacity crowd.

The Englishman expects to have sidelined quartet O’Mahony, Tadhg Furlong, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose back in training before facing Warren Gatland’s men but is waiting to discover the extent of an injury suffered by full-back Hugo Keenan.

“Hugo’s got a bang on his knee so I don’t know,” said Farrell.

Ireland v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – Aviva Stadium
Ireland’s Jack Conan (left) is tackled by Italy’s Federico Ruzza (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He seems in good spirits but you saw him and he was limping so we’ll see how he turns up tomorrow morning (Monday) whether he needs someone to have a look at that or not.

“I don’t know at this stage.”

Italy arrived at the Aviva Stadium on the back of a positive performance in a three-point defeat to England but rarely entered the hosts’ 22.

Azzurri head coach Gonzalo Quesada said: “They didn’t need to do anything special, just run through their system, their attack.

Ireland v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – Aviva Stadium
Gonzalo Quesada felt Ireland did not have to work hard for their victory (Niall Carson/PA)

“When they go those 19 points of difference (in front), it’s like the All Blacks some years ago, they just go through their basics and they had 100 per cent of the lineout, 100 per cent of the scrum, 100 per cent of the high balls.

“And then they just work their rucks in attack and defence with extreme efficiency.

“We expected that level of performance. They did what we know they can do.

“The frustration is more that we couldn’t put a bit more pressure on them like we wanted.”