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Italy captain Sergio Parisse has dismissed suggestions that Ireland are under greater pressure to achieve victory when the teams meet at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
Both sides are without a win in this year's RBS Six Nations championship and will be desperate to put that right tomorrow, but Parisse believes that the pressure on Italy will be greater than that on Joe Schmidt's side as they look to avoid an eleventh wooden spoon in seventeen years.
"Nobody expects us to win tomorrow, and yet we're talking about a lot of pressure on Ireland, who have not won a match in this year's Six Nations," the number eight said.
"We must not let Ireland play. They are a great team, they know how to be extremely dangerous.
"They have won the last two tournaments and will want to finish this year's competition in the best way possible.
"They have many injuries but we have a lot of absences too.
"That must not be an excuse, but an opportunity for young players to prove themselves."
Parisse, who will equal Martin Castrogiovanni's record of 118 caps for the Azurri, believes that Italy will have to significantly improve on their showing in the 36-20 defeat to Scotland in Rome a fortnight ago if they are to avoid another loss.
"We cannot afford to gift them easy points in the opening quarter like we did against the Scots," he added.
"We conceded two tries from mistakes in the first quarter, and we have not always converted chances into points.
"We have to score when we have the opportunity. We've got to start well, stay in contact on the scoreboard."
By: Kieran O'Daly