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Ireland v Italy: Visitors determined to crash O'Driscoll's farewell party

SUCH has been his enduring influence, it would not be too over the top if Ireland held a parade for Brian O'Driscoll's last appearance in Dublin on Saturday.

If they did, though, a stubborn Italy side would do their best to rain on it, according to their captain Marco Bortolami.

The 33-year-old lock has vowed that Italy will try to "destroy" O'Driscoll's final international appearance on home turf, as he sets a new Test cap world record of 140. It is all very reminiscent of last season's closing Six Nations bout between the two sides in Rome, where retiring prop Andrea Lo Cicero's tears were an abiding feature of Italy's 22-15 victory.

Bortolami, the former Gloucester lock, hailed Ireland as the best team in this year's edition of the tournament, but still believes the Azzurri can claim their first win in Dublin since 1997. "I don't think they will change the way they play because of Brian's 140th game," said Bortolami, Italy's stand-in captain in Sergio Parisse's absence. "After the game I'm sure that will get some attention. But we will try to destroy this party for him. That's the way sport is.

"I'm sure it's a motivation for Ireland, but to be honest we haven't talked about that. We have to do our job, turn up and execute our gameplan, that's what we can control."

O'Driscoll will retire in the summer, with his final international match to be the Six Nations closer against France in Paris on Saturday, March 15. Bortolami freely admits Italy are underdogs this weekend, especially with just one Six Nations win on the road, in Scotland in 2007.

But the Zebre second row still believes Italy can pull off a win, even without talisman Parisse and influential back-rower Alessandro Zanni.

"We are underdogs, and we are under no illusions," he said. "If you let them do what they want, they can control a game and they will win. But if we play a proper game we can put them under pressure."

TEAMs. Ireland v Italy (Aviva Stadium, today, 2.30)

Ireland R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), D Kearney (Leinster); J Sexton (Racing Metro), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt), I Henderson (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster)

Substitutes S Cronin (Leinster), J McGrath (Leinster), M Moore (Leinster), R Ruddock (Leinster), J Murphy (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), P Jackson (Ulster), F McFadden (Leinster)

Italy L McLean (Benetton Treviso); A Esposito (Benetton Treviso), M Campagnaro (Benetton Treviso), G Garcia (Zebre), L Sarto (Zebre); L Orquera (Zebre), T Tebaldi (Ospreys); A De Marchi (Benetton Treviso), L Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Toulon), Q Geldenhuys (Zebre), M Bortolami (Zebre, capt), J Furno (Biarritz), P Derbyshire (Benetton Treviso), R Barbieri (Benetton Treviso)

Substitutes D Giazzon (Zebre), M Rizzo (Benetton Treviso), L Cittadini (Benetton Treviso), A Pavanello (Benetton Treviso), M Vosawai (Benetton Treviso), E Gori (Benetton Treviso), T Allan (Perpignan), A Masi (Wasps)

Referee Nigel Owens (Wales)

Assistant referees Pascal Gauzere (France) & Greg Garner (England)

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