Mallet wants Italy to continue learning curve

It has not been the easiest of starts for Italy coach Nick Mallett, with wild fluctuations in his team’s form, but with one Six Nations game left Mallett is pleased with Italy’s performances on the field so far.

Even though his team have lost all four of their matches, the ex-Stade Francais coach feels that this is offset by an improvement in their performances and Mallett feels that continuing this progression is more important than a maiden win against Scotland at the weekend.

“We want to win, but we want the team to play some rugby as well and to progress with our game. I think we can expand our game and I think the backline can do good things on Saturday,” he said.

“A win is important for the team, but I don’t want us to win playing a 10-man game. I think this squad needs to continue to learn and this match is part of it.”


Mallett named an identical 22-man squad to the one that lost 25-13 to France in Paris in the last round of matches, which means that Andrea Masi will finish the tournament in the number 10 shirt, as Mallett hoped he would.

With no flyhalf in outstanding form Mallett decided to try the Biarritz centre or wing there and after a few wobbles against England and Wales, against France he put in his most convincing display in the position so far.

Mallett believes that Masi’s development has been key to Italy widening their game plan, whilst still maintaining their traditional strength in the pack.

“I think we produced some very good backline moves,” said Mallett.

“To beat France three times down the outside as we did, Leonardo Ghiraldini down the left and Kaine Robertson twice down the right, doesn’t happen to many teams.

“That we scored a push-over try and won all our lineouts shows we still have a strong forward pack. We have an improving backline and Andrea Masi is improving as a flyhalf and he will get better with time.” Another player, who came in for praise from Mallett, was new captain Sergio Parisse.

One of the first things Mallett did as Italy coach was install the Stade Francais number 8 as his captain and the South African feels that the added responsibility has taken Parisse’s performances to a new level.

Mallett said: “Sergio Parisse has done excellently as captain and as a player. He has been excellent throughout the 6 Nations and has been the best number 8 in the tournament. I am very happy with this change.”

However, Mallett is well aware that no matter how good the progression this year, a win is crucial to continue the momentum generated by a successful 2007 on the pitch for Italy and by an equally impressive year for individual players such as the Bergamasco brothers in the French Top 14 and Marco Bortolami and Martin Castrogiovanni in the English Premiership.

“The result against France was the best for seven years and the result against England was the best ever. Against France we spent the last 10 minutes in their 22 and only failed to score a try after a mistake by Simon Picone.

‘But this weekend is important for many reasons. If we win the match it will be a good Six Nations for us, but if we lost there will be lots of work to do.”

Italy (15-1)
Andrea Marcato; Kaine Robertson, Gonzalo Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Ezio Galon; Andrea Masi, Simon Picone; Sergio Parisse (capt), Alessandro Zanni, Josh Sole; Marco Bortolami, Carlo Antonio del Fava; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea lo Cicero

Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Salvatore Perugini, Carlos Nieto, Jaco Erasmus, Pietro Travagli, Enrico Patrizio, Alberto Sgarbi

Sapa-AFP –

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