Mallett wants Italy’s forwards to take a step up

Italy coach Nick Mallett is expecting a big improvement from his forwards when the Six Nations minnows face England at the Stadio Flaminio on Sunday.

The South African admitted he was bitterly disappointed with his team’s showing against Ireland in Dublin last week, where they went down 29-11.

But he pointed the main finger of blame at a pack that is normally Italy’s forte.

The main improvement he is hoping for will be in the line-out, which was a disaster against Ireland, and he believes recalled former captain Marco Bortolami can have a great influence in that area.

“It’s never just one person’s fault, it’s often a combination of getting the call wrong or the jumper’s support not being quite on the spot or the line-out being overthrown,” said Mallett.

“So there were a lot of reasons for us not being good, the main one being Ireland playing the line-out very well.

“But I think that Marco Bortolami is recognised as Italy’s best line-out exponent in terms of organisation and we’re looking forward to having him back and organising our line-out.”

Mallett also insisted that his team would not be underestimating England’s relatively inexperienced front row, including Leicester Tiger Dan Cole, who will be making his first start for his country.

“I know they have worked very, very hard on their scrummaging this week and on integrating those (inexperienced) players and they also worked hard on defending the maul, so they’re very aware of where we have been strong in the past,” added the South African.

“But I must say I was disappointed with our front five against Ireland, particularly in the primary phases, and not only in the line-out, I think that in the scrums we can still improve on what we showed there.

“It’s obviously an area we pride ourselves in and not only against England but any team we play against we’d like to get some momentum there.” It’s not just the pack that Mallett is asking to step up, he wants his side’s whole attacking game to move up a notch.

“After this (Ireland) match we were very disappointed with our attack for two reasons, firstly in the first phase we weren’t ready and then we were too slow getting the ball out.

“It’s not just the forwards, sometimes our scrum-half (Tito Tebaldi) was too slow and played safety rather than more expansive so we’ve worked a lot on that this week.

“But a player like Tito has only played six or seven test matches and is still improving so we shouldn’t criticise him too much.

“He has the ability to improve and he needs to learn that when under pressure he should slow down the ball to give us time to organise ourselves but when we’re in attack he needs to be quicker.”

Mallett also revealed why he has picked two recognised centres on the wing for this game.

Mirko Bergamasco has played wing for Italy several times before but Mallett caused a surprise by replacing New Zealand-born Kaine Robertson with Andrea Masi.

“I don’t agree that Mirko is a centre, he’s played a lot more on the wing at Stade Francais than he has at centre, in my opinion he’s a wing not a centre.

“And also the two centres playing now are good players and I have a lot of confidence in Gonzalo Garcia and Gonzalo Canale.

“Mirko has the right attributes to play on the wing. As for Masi he’s played a lot at fullback, he’s played centre but physically he weighs 92-93kg.

“He has a good kick, he’s quite quick and all the other teams have big wingers of around 100kg.

“There’s not a huge difference in speed between Kaine Robertson and Andrea Masi but there’s 15kg weight difference.”

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