Wales won’t be as bad as Ireland or England : Bortolami

Returning Italy lock Marco Bortolami warned his team-mates to expect a tougher test against Wales in the Six Nations this weekend than they faced in their previous two matches against Ireland and England.

Italy only lost narrowly to two of the favourties for the Six Nations title, going down 16-11 in Dublin before being held off 23-19 by England in Rome a week later.

Bortolami said Italy could take confidence from the narrow defeats but should not get carried away as the two European heavyweights were far from their best.

“We take a lot of confidence because after the World Cup we had a new coach and we’ve had some young players come through,” he said.

“But to be honest I think the opposition was quite poor against Italy. Ireland were poor in the second half and England were very disappointing in the second half.

“We have to be realistic, we can improve a lot. Wales will be a big challenge for us because they are better in Cardiff than away from home.

“They have a wonderful back-line and are strong all across the park.

After the match we will see where we are.” Bortolami has been sorely missed by injury-hit Italy having been unavailable for the first two Six Nations matches due to a fractured cheek-bone.

But he was back in the side for Gloucester’s narrow 29-26 defeat at Bristol on Sunday and is raring to go for the national team.

Italy have lost full-back David Bortolussi and New Zealand-born winger Kaine Robertson for the Wales match so the return of Bortolami could not have come at a better moment.

“I’m fit and I’ve trained hard over the last few weeks, although without contact,” he said on Monday.

“I feel good, I played yesterday with Gloucester and I had no problems. I feel confident going into this game.” While Bortolami will boost the Italian pack, which is already considered as the country’s strength, the backs will be the worry in Wales.

Already they have been forced into trying out a new half-back partnership following the retirement of Alessandro Troncon after the World Cup in September and October.

Overmach Parma’s Pietro Travagli started at scrum-half against Ireland and England, his first two starts for Italy, but may make way for Simon Picone against Wales as the Treviso player is now back to full fitness.

Biarritz’s Andrea Masi, normally a centre, should continue at fly-half although Bortolussi’s injury could mean that Treviso’s Andrea Marcato comes in at number 10 with Masi switching back to his normal post, or even playing at full-back.

The uncertainty means it is all a bit of a worry for the Italians.

“They are very young, especially at fly-half where Masi has not had a lot of experience,” added Bortolami. “We need to give them time to grow up and get experience but we knew that before the tournament began.”

Sapa-AFP –

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