Mallett blasts IRB’s Test schedule from ‘Hell

Italy coach Nick Mallett has taken a swipe at the “Tour from Hell” which he says the the IRB has forced on his team.

The Italians known as the Azzuri will play a daunting two tests against the Wallabies and one against New Zealand over the next three weeks.

Mallett says that the tour is ludicrously hard for a team like Italy and that he would be far happier if his team were playing against a team that was of a similar ranking.

“It’s a hell of a tough tour in anyone’s book,” Mallett told Sunday News.

“Even if I was coaching South Africa and had to play Australia and New Zealand over three consecutive Saturdays, I wouldn’t be happy with a tour like that.

“So when you’re coaching Italy, it’s obviously going to be a huge challenge for the guys.”

“We’ve got a few new guys and the key will be to keep a really good spirit on the tour.

“From a playing point of view, after the Six Nations, which was very disappointing for us, this is a hell of a hard tour.”

Mallet famously coached South Africa’s Springboks to a record equalling 17 consecutive wins between 1997 and 1998 says that playing against the best can have some advantages but that it can be taken too far.

Mallett compared Italy’s June tests to those that Wales and Ireland are playing.

“Italy is a young developing rugby nation. We’ve only had 10 years in the top flight in the Six Nations and we’re still battling at that level.

“The TriNations is much stronger than the SixNations and the Super 14 is a fantastic competition which prepares players for top level competition,” he said.

“A southern hemisphere tour at the end of the season is really tough for a side like Italy.”

“As a coach this isn’t what I’d want to do, but with the Lions tour we’re on an IRB schedule we can’t change.

“If we had an opportunity this year, like Wales and Ireland, to play USA and Canada, it would have been the perfect tour for Italy.”

“But we’re on this schedule and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Italy have lost their last eight tests in a row and have won just twice under Mallett since the last World Cup.

They are ranked in 12th place and are scheduled to play teams ranked higher than them through to the 2011 World Cup.

“In 16 games in charge we still haven’t played a team lower than us in the IRB rankings and between now and the World Cup there won’t be a single game against a team seeded below us.

“Rugby should be a mix of playing against teams who are better than you, at the same level and weaker than you.

“But if you’re continually playing against sides vastly better than you then it takes a very special kind of team spirit to go out there and keep trying.”

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