Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is targeting three straight victories to finish the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, despite a disappointing start to their Championship campaign.
Ireland lost to Wales in Round 1 after Peter O’Mahony’s early red card and then suffered a narrow 15-13 home defeat to France in Dublin on Sunday.
That was France’s first win at the Aviva Stadium since 2011 and makes this the first time Ireland have lost their first two matches in any Six Nations campaign.
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Now, they must prepare to face Italy in Round 3, before a trip to Scotland and home game with England next month.
“Three victories and that’s what we expect of ourselves,” Farrell said.
“We’ll have to show our character now because obviously Italy are without a win and they are at home so we will need to take that game on full steam ahead and then obviously, as we saw (on Saturday, when Wales won 25-24 in Scotland), going to BT Murrayfield is no easy task at all because they are playing particularly well at this moment in time.
“They were unlucky and the English here for the last game is another chance to get back to the Aviva and hopefully get the right result, what we expect of ourselves here.”
Farrell could have captain Johnny Sexton available after the fly-half was ruled out of the defeat to France, with Billy Burns and Ross Byrne playing 40 minutes each in his place.
Scrum-half Conor Murray was also missing due to a hamstring strain and replaced by Jamison Gibson-Park, and Farrell was impressed with how all three got on.
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“I thought they did really well,” Farrell added.
“I thought their game management was great, especially in the first half, how they got the forwards into the game, keeping their patience, sticking to the plan.
“I thought they were going great and then Ross coming on for Billy, he got himself straight into the game. He obviously kicked a lovely goal and got the backline moving as well at times but I suppose if you were singling anyone out I thought Jamison was outstanding for 80 minutes.
“He was well in control, he was calm, he had plenty of energy and he was pretty accurate. Our kicking game was much better.”