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Nic Ladds 14th Feb 2009 - 12:19

Irish won't need luck to ease past Italy

Ireland's side will remain unchanged as they travel to Rome to take on Italy as 1/6 favourites in the betting.

Italy are always seen as the perennial whipping boys of the Six Nations and they did nothing to disprove that against England last week and they are available at odds of 9/2 to record a shock victory.

A lot of their troubles last week came from playing flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrum-half where he had a nightmare. He returns to his usual position today and is 8/1 to score a try at anytime.

Italy may have blamed Bergamasco for their poor showing against Engaland but in truth they were poor everywhere.

Their strong point is their pack but Ireland matched France last week and should have no problem matching and bettering Italy this week.

Ireland should have no problem covering a 14-point handicap at odds of 10/11 with Italy also at 10/11 receiving a 14 points head start.

Italy's main try threat comes from Mirco Bergamasco who is 16/1 to score the first try returning to his regularly position of outside centre.

However Ireland have such a strong back line that you cannot see him breaking through to grab even a consolation unless the Irish really take their foot of the gas late on.

In Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara Ireland have two of the greatest, wisest heads in the game and both still carry a potent attacking threat as O'Driscoll showed last time out with one of his trade mark bursts to score a try and he is 12/1 to do so first this time with O'Gara at 20/1.

In Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald they have two young promising wingers who are both 8/1 to score the first try and they even have the luxury of bringing on the likes of Gordon D'Arcy and Geordan Murphy.

Ireland's strength and depth in the backs will be way too much for Italy and while they stand more chance of competing in the pack as they are lead by the world-class Sergio Parisse, they are unlikely to do anything major with the ball they do see.

It could be an explosive first half and if Ireland do choose to take their foot off the gas later on in the game if it already won then the a wager on the first half being the highest scoring half looks reasonable at even money.

Another decent looking bet is the away side to score over 30 points at odds of 6/5. Last Ireland played Italy in Rome they ran in eight tries and won 51-24 and their explosive back line could quite easily massacre the Italians yet again.

Winning margins in Ireland's favour of 16-20 at 9/2 or 21-25 at 7/1 look feasible. If you fancy Italy to pull off one of the biggest shocks of all time then a winning margin of 1-5 in the Italian's favour is 8/1.

There should be no surprises though and after their impressive victory over France, Ireland will have their sights set on the Grand Slam which could come down to the final game when they play Wales in Cardiff.

While Irish confidence and optimism is often either misplaced or misconstrued, the players may now finally themselves believe they have the ability and talent to go the whole way and a convincing win over Italy will only boost their confidence further.

Recommendation:
Ronan O'Gara to score a try - 4/1
Ireland to win by 21-25 points - 7/1

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