IT WAS A case of Hamlet without the prince for Ireland this morning at the Stadio Olimpico.
But Ireland got on with it despite skipper Rory Best missing his captain’s run in Rome ahead of tomorrow’s Six Nations clash with Italy.
Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby confirmed that the Ulster hooker had been affected by a stomach bug overnight and hadn’t been able to sleep.
“From a player’s point of view, you don’t want your captain not to be there for your captain’s run, ideally,” said Jamie Heaslip after the session.
“But he needs a bit of rest so we’ll give him that. The boys just get on with the job in hand and in front of us. That’s what we did today, to be honest. I don’t think Rory would have wanted it any other way.”
And the vastly-experienced Leinster man is ready to stand in, should Best not recover over the next 24 hours.
“Absolutely no problem,” he said. “Ironically it happened to us with Paulie in one of our first championships, so if it has to be it has to be.
“We’ve got a really good leadership group and if one guy isn’t there for whatever reason that leadership group gets tighter and really drives the collective.”
After last week’s late arrival at Murrayfield and subsequent slow start, Ireland will, of course, be hoping that preparations go off as planned tomorrow and they then begin well against the Azzurri.
“We’ve got a massive challenge ahead of us. I think Italy have been under a really good transformation since Conor [O’Shea] has come in. We’ve seen that with their November series and last week, so we know we’ve got a huge challenge against us,” said Heaslip.
“Our learnings from last week are that we can’t gift a team the start that we did. That’s very fixable because a lot of the mistakes were on us and giving Scotland opportunity to get into the game.
“If we did something similar with Italy, they’d punish us as well. We’ve had a really good week’s training, took some of our learnings, looked at the opportunities we had as well, and have trained hard. We’re focused on getting out there and winning that first moment.”
Ireland call on Tracy as cover after captain Rory Best hit by stomach bug‘Ireland don’t think we’re fit enough for 80 minutes’ – Italy’s Parisse