Six Nations: No room for sentiment
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Italy coach Conor O'Shea has insisted there will be no question of divided loyalties when the Azzurri face his native Ireland in the second round of the Six Nations Championship on Saturday.
"Ireland is where my family is, where my home is and where I spend my holidays. But right now my only priority is rugby with Italy. I'm not thinking about Ireland, but about us. We've got a mountain to climb for 80 minutes," said O'Shea.
Ireland's preparations suffered a setback when captain Rory Best went down with a stomach bug on Friday, the hooker confined to the team hotel while the rest of the squad trained at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.
"Hopefully he is going to be better with some extra hours of sleep," Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby said.
Wales were sweating on the fitness of players with wing George North (leg) and flyhalf Dan Biggar (ribs).
England coach Eddie Jones had done his bit for Anglo-Welsh relations before insisting - against Wales' wishes - that the Principality Stadium's retractable roof remain open.
"They're a cunning lot the Welsh aren't they? They always have been. They've got goats, they've got daffodils," Jones said.
Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde summed up the game's enduring importance by saying: "We are neighbours, aren't we?"
"I have got two English brothers-in-law. It is that English-Welsh rivalry and wanting to get the better of your neighbour," he stated.
Scotland stunned Ireland with three tries inside the first half hour at Murrayfield last weekend and a similar display could end their Paris hoodoo.
"I'm not going to lie, I can't even remember the last time we won there in 1999. France away is tough for any team, but this is great opportunity for us to make some history by beating them over there," Scotland flank Hamish Watson, said
Last week at Twickenham saw France again go close against a major side only to lose narrowly, just as they did in November defeats by Australia (23-25) and world champions New Zealand (19-24).
"It's true that against Australia we could have won but didn't; against New Zealand we had a chance at the end; against England we lost at the end: it's annoying," France coach Guy Noves said.