Mallett calls on Italy to improve or be thrashed

Italy coach Nick Mallett admitted on Wednesday that his team needed to show much improvement when they face World Cup finalists England in the Six Nations on Sunday or they will face a hiding to nothing.

Italy will play their first home match of this season’s championship at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio following last weekend’s narrow 16-11 defeat to Ireland in Dublin.

South African Mallet has made just one change to the starting XV with Ezio Galon coming in for the injured Pablo Canavosio on the wing, and Alberto Sgarbi taking Galon’s place on the bench.

But despite the narrow defeat at Croke Park, Mallet was not pleased with what he saw from his team and said he was not buoyed by England’s dismal 26-19 home defeat to Wales either.

“Obviously we’ve looked at England but my main concentration is on improving our performance,” said Mallet, a former Springboks and Stade Francais coach.

“There are large areas that we need to improve on and if we don’t get it right any reasonable team would’ve put 40 points on us the way we played.

“Ireland missed many opportunities and didn’t play to where we were weak and I’m sure other teams won’t make the same mistakes.”


Mallet made a couple of other changes among the replacements with prop Carlos Nieto, who missed the Ireland match because of the death of his father, returning in place of Lorenzo Cittadini and replacement scrum-half Simon Picone drafted in for forward Tommaso Reato.

It means his bench will be comprised of four forwards and three backs instead of the 5-2 combination he prefered against Ireland.

“Even though England’s pack is very strong we need more options in the backline,” said Mallett.

“At the end of the Ireland game we had the nine (scrum-half) and 10 (fly-half) cramping up. We lost Pablo Canavosio very early on so we had no scrum-half replacement.

“We needed some opportunities to change the backline players but we couldn’t do it because we didn’t have enough replacements.

“It’s very important to have two options at scrum-half so it’s very important to have Picone on the bench.” The big talk before the Ireland match was about Italy’s new and untested half-back partnership.

Pietro Travagli made his first start at scrum-half while Andrea Masi, normally a centre, made his debut at fly-half.

Masi was not expected to kick during that first match but Mallet said that over time more would be expected of the Biarritz player.

However, it was a clear feature of the Ireland match that while Ronan O’Gara dictated the home side’s game-plan with his boot, Italy’s kicking was decidedly inferior.

“We’re taking it one step at a time. I have to teach our fly-half to play at fly-half first,” said Mallett.

“I didn’t want to put him under pressure in the first game but he certainly can kick the ball very well.

“He will get into positions to kick more because he has a very good long kick.

“When he gets more experience he will learn when to kick and when not to.”

Italy (15-1)


David Bortolussi; Kaine Robertson, Gonzalo Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Ezio Galon; Andrea Masi, Pietro Travagli; Sergio Parisse (capt), Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole; Carlo Antonio Del Fava, Santiago Dellape; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero


Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Salvatore Perugini, Carlos Nieto, Alessandro Zanni, Simon Picone, Andrea Marcato, Alberto Sgarbi.



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