Mallet hoping to solve kicking conundrum

Italy coach Nick Mallett says his team needs to improve their kicking game if they are to prosper in this season’s Six Nations championship.


Italy host World Cup finalists England at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio on Sunday with both teams coming off disappointing setbacks in their opening matches.


Italy played a lot worse than their narrow 16-11 defeat to Ireland in Dublin would suggest while England came back down to earth with a bump following their World Cup heroics, beaten 26-19 at home by Wales, who failed to even make it out of the group stages in France.


While Mallett said his team tackled well against the Irish, he admitted that their kicking game let them down.


“The good things were our line-out, we won 17 out of 18 line-out throws,” said the South African coach.


“Our defence was very good man on man, we made 94 percent of our tackles, Mauro Bergamasco made 11 or 12 tackles, (Martin) Castrogiovanni made six tackles, Mirco (Bergamasco) and (Andrea) Masi both made six tackles each.


“There was a lot of good defence, the scrum was solid, our driving was good and our fighting spirit was very good.


“But the bad things were that we were naive in defence and we weren’t well organised in defence.


“Too many players were going to the ball, there wasn’t enough width and the kicking game was not good enough to get us out of defence.” Looking at the score in Ireland, it might seem that Italy ran their hosts close but Mallett admitted the truth was very different.


And he warned his players that a similar performance against England could result in a hefty defeat.


“The players know they were lucky not to concede three tries in the first 20 minutes,” said the former Springboks and Stade Francais coach.


“Obviously we’ve looked at England but my main concentration is on improving our performance.


“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.” While Italy may be struggling a bit on the field, off it rugby seems to be booming in the country.


Both Sunday’s match against England and the home clash with Scotland on March 15 have already sold out at the 25,000-capacity Stadio Flaminio.


“It’s fantastic that it’s sold out for both the England and Scotland games, I even think we could have sold 50,000 tickets,” added Mallett.


“People are very interested in rugby and it’s important for the team to understand that the more they play well and the more they give their heart and soul, the more we will attract supporters.”


Sapa-AFP SixNationsweb.co.uk

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