Less than 21 hours to kick-off in Dublin and Italy boss Conor O’Shea sits down for a chat with captain Dean Budd.
Amid all the talk of last-minute preparations to face Joe Schmidt’s side at the Aviva Stadium, former Ireland full-back O’Shea turns the conversation onto family.
Italy will launch their World Cup warm-up fixture schedule against the world’s third-ranked Test team on Saturday – but whatever the scenario, O’Shea always has time for his players’ well-being.
“As you saw when you arrived earlier, Conor and I were having a chat,” said lock forward Budd.
“He’s there for you 100 per cent of the time; text messages, calls, anything.
“His availability has been amazing.
“I lost my stepfather this year, and he lost his father, and he has been massively there for me personally in that sense.
“We can sit down, have a beer after a game, vent a bit if necessary; but just talk about experiences with our parents, and things like that.
“From a personal aspect, he’s been absolutely amazing for me.
“His emotional intelligence is up there with the best.
“He can read the room pretty good usually, he knows when we’re down and whether to step off the accelerator a little bit, and when to really pump the gas. So he’s been great.”
New Zealand-born second row Budd will skipper the Azzurri on Saturday, with the great Sergio Parisse rested as boss O’Shea hands chances to a host of fringe stars.
Italy will open their World Cup by taking on Namibia on Sunday, September 22, and all preparation between now and then is focused solely on that date.
Budd admitted the 138-cap number eight Parisse has proved an invaluable help as he gets to grips with captaincy honours this week.
“Being captain is a massive honour, I’m absolutely stoked,” said Budd.
“It’s strange obviously, Sergio’s always captained the team and has a massive presence.
“And without him it can be quite intimidating at times, knowing when it’s my time to talk and not let him do his usual role.
“So it’s been a week of finding my place and finding my voice in the team, without Sergio being there.
“And I’m excited to lead the boys out there tomorrow.
“When Sergio raises his voice, everyone listens. He’s been a massive help in that sense.
“I’ve got a massively young team to try to manage, and for him to be there in those moments when I haven’t been quite confident or ready to speak, he’s helped out hugely.
“It’s certainly unusual preparation because it’s a trial match but also an international Test against Ireland, who no matter who they put out are one of the best teams in the world.
“We’ll all give it absolutely everything we’ve got, but it’s been a weird week and it will be interesting to see how we start the game tomorrow.
“We’ve set our focus on every game at the World Cup, and as you see, we’re trialling teams and players over the next few weeks.
“Yes, we always want to win, that will never be any different.
“No matter what the process we’re going out there to win tomorrow, but there’ll certainly be no panic stations if things don’t work out for the best tomorrow.”
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