Ireland were not at their flowing best, but Joe Schmidt was happy to see his team escape Rome with a comfortable 26-3 win.
The defending champions opened their Six Nations account with a comprehensive success over the Italians, but it took until Leonardo Ghiraldini’s yellow card on the hour for the Irish to finally cross the whitewash.
Two quick tries from Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell, a late call-up to the starting lineup for Sean O’Brien who pulled up injured in the warm-up, saw Ireland home.
And although they were not as fluent as in November, when they beat both South Africa and Australia, Schmidt was pleased to start with a win.
“If I had been offered a differential of 23 points before the match, I think I would have taken it,” said Schmidt.
“We were scratchy at the start but settled into it and squeezed them into making errors.”
O’Brien, only just back from injury, had to pull out at the last minute, but Schmidt played down the seriousness of his injury.
“We had just finished the last bit of the warm-up and his foot slipped out from under him,” explained Schmidt.
“He just got a twinge in the hamstring. The power was still there in the hamstring and on another day we might have put him out there. But we just felt it was not worth taking
“Tommy (O’Donnell) did not let us down. He came on and got through a power of work and took his try incredibly well.”
While the first half was tight, Ireland dominated territory and possession in the second half, and skipper Paul O’Connell was happy with their reaction.
“Italy are good in Rome and in the first day of the Six Nations, so we are happy with the result,” said the 35-year-old Munster second row.
“There are aspects we would be disappointed with. We started poorly which meant we did not get momentum and put them under pressure.
“But we fixed it all in the second half.”