D'Arcy: We'll do better
GORDON D'ARCY is expecting a massive improvement in performance when Ireland take on Italy next week.
Clearly disappointed with the opening showing against the Welsh, the Leinster and Ireland centre is backing his team to become a more consistent force in world rugby.
"You know the first game of the Six Nations is always going to be a starting point for the rest of the tournament," D'Arcy said.
"You never want to dip below that performance, it is always going to be a little rusty, always going to be a little below par, because you haven't played together for an amount of months.
"We're no different to any other team. We've played that match, we've set the bar pretty low so we're expecting to play better and better in every game.
"I just think we need to be more consistent. We beat Australia in the World Cup, we beat England when they were going for a championship (Grand Slam) and then we lost to Wales in the first game of the Six Nations.
"We're as good as all of the top teams, we just need to be more consistent. We need to believe that we are a top-four team and we need to be doing that on a more consistent basis.
"We're focusing on every aspect of the game. Against Wales, every aspect of every play we did well in parts, but we're looking to move that from 60 per cent, or whatever percentage it was, we're looking to up that across the board.
"The attack plan that we had, when we executed it we did it well, but we didn't do it enough.
"When we have the ball, we want to get into an attacking pattern.
"That means the rucks have to be improved, the scrum, the line-out -- when we get ball it has to be good quality."
The IRFU have reacted angrily to the fact that, due to the rescheduling of the French match to March 4, Ireland will now play four games in four weeks, but D'Arcy is upbeat.
"If we're injury-free it could be brilliant, if we pick up knocks then it might not be. So, there are pluses and minuses in it; it means we can build on performances week after week and that might suit us," he said.
"Italy have two matches under their belts, they'll be battle-hardened, they are a really good team and their new coach has brought in a new way of playing.
"They are an incredibly physical team, so you have to respect that, but the one thing you do know is that if you can put pressure, pressure, pressure on them then you will score."
Ireland's chances against the Azurri are boosted by the fact that they will be without influential prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a fractured rib.