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Jamie Heaslip picks out Alessandro Zanni as Italy's 'stand-out' player

Last Updated: 16/03/13 2:14pm

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Alessandro Zanni: Italy's key man, says Jamie Heaslip

Alessandro Zanni: Italy's key man, says Jamie Heaslip

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Jamie Heaslip says Italy's stand-out player is in the Azzurri back-row - but it's not Sergio Parisse.

The Ireland captain says blindside flanker Alessandro Zanni is the man he finds most difficult to play against.

Parisse, generally regarded as the finest No 8 in the world, will lead Italy into battle in Rome on Saturday but alongside him Zanni is the unsung hero of the Azzurri pack, often found at the bottom of rucks and usually emerging with the ball.

"They have a massive and very good back row. Zanni is the one who stands out for me. He's a great player who gets through a lot of work."
Jamie Heaslip

"They have a massive and very good back row," Heaslip said. "Zanni is the one who stands out for me. He's a great player who gets through a lot of work.

"He plays well alongside Sergio and has caused a lot of problems for us at Leinster when he's played for Treviso.

"We'll have our hands full with their back-row unit and the whole pack. They hold onto the ball very well and work it through the phases.

"Italy have come on leaps and bounds with their addition to the RaboDirect PRO12. They now have a lot of different threats because of the experience they have gathered."

Injuries

Ireland can finish the Six Nations anywhere between third and last depending on results elsewhere.

Six weeks ago they opened the tournament with a 30-22 victory over Wales in Cardiff, establishing a 30-3 lead with a clinical three-try flurry against the title contenders.

But a horrific injury crisis - which again deprives them of fly-half Jonathan Sexton - and some poor finishing has reduced them to playing for pride on the final weekend.

"We've created opportunities in the last three games but just haven't been clinical enough," Ireland captain Heaslip said.

"I would love it if we came out this weekend with all guns blazing, taking every opportunity that comes our way.

"Sometimes that doesn't happen and you have to grind it out. Italy aren't going to make things easy at all and will be going for it as well."

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