Mallet bemoans Castrogiovanni persecution

Italy coach Nick Mallett has called on referees to stop singling out Leicester Tigers prop Martin ‘Castro’ Castrogiovanni for unfair treatment, ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations encounter at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio against Scotland.

Castro was sin-binned against England last week and Mallet believes international referees have been influenced by the Argentina-born player’s bad press.

He was part of the Italy scrum that dominated New Zealand in a test back in November but the All Blacks complained bitterly afterwards about what the Italy front row had been allowed to get away with.

“After the game against the All Blacks many people were talking about our scrum,” said South African Mallett.

“And I think all referees are focussing on Castro but for me Castro is the best tight-head prop in the world.

“I don’t think the fouls he’s called on are always justified. He can make mistakes but I think 75-80 percent of the time it’s not Castro’s fault.

“With Leicester last year he won three man-of-the-match awards in four games in Europe but then when he comes to play for Italy he’s penalised.”

Scotland have said they will target the scrum as an area where they can try to gain a psychological advantage over Italy by dominating in their area of traditional strength.

But it is the Scots’ improved running game that is of more concern to Mallet, who denied this game would be their bests chance of a victory in this competition.

“As I’ve always said, we’re playing against better teams than us so every game is one to win, even when we played against New Zealand we wanted to win,” he said.

“It’s true that Scotland are nearer to us in the world rankings (10th to Italy’s 11th) but they should have beaten Wales.

“It was incredible they lost (31-24) when they had a lead of 24-14 with five minutes to play, for me it was more a case of Scotland losing it than Wales winning.

“And when you consider that the two Scottish teams are at the top of the Celtic League and have had some good results in the European Cup over the last few years, I think that, even if they don’t have many players, the organisation of rugby in Scotland has improved a lot over the last five years.

“And last year they beat Australia, (in this Six Nations) they had good game against France at home and were really impressive away to Wales.

“It will be a different game than the one against England because Italians like to play against England because they’re well organised, they don’t play so fast or with as much frenzy.

“They’re very organised and we like this type of team but when we play against teams that counter attack a lot and play a more open game, it’s a bit more difficult so we hope tomorrow we’ll be ready for a game such as this.

“Scotland won’t change they’re style because this is (coach) Andy Robinson’s game and he said that the Scots are better when there’s disorder and confusion.

“They’re fast and good one on one and want to put players in this situation where they can beat their opponents one on one.” Two years ago in Rome Italy beat Scotland 23-20 in their last Six Nations match thanks to a last-minute Andrea Marcato drop goal.

But that was the last time that Italy won a game in this competition.

One of these two sides have finished with the wooden spoon in the Six Nations every year since 2003, with Italy earning that unwanted honour four times to Scotland’s two.

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