Mallett denies Celtic League revenge motivator

Italy coach Nick Mallett denied that Scottish attempts to block Italian teams’ entry into the Celtic League made this weekend’s victory over Scotland any sweeter.

Italy beat the Scots 16-12 at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio to end a two-year wait for a Six Nations victory, and boost their hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon for a third year in a row.

And for many fans at least it will have had an extra significance since it is Scotland’s two Celtic League teams who have presented the most obstacles towards the inclusion of two Italian outfits.

Italy, and Mallett in particular, believe they need Celtic League rugby to help improve their domestic standard and accelerate their improvement on the international plane.

But while he acknowledged Scotland have benefitted themselves from playing in that league, he refused to point a finger at his opponents.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for Scottish rugby and what they’ve done over the last 10 years,” he said.

“Obviously Italy would love to get into the Celtic League but the team has a lot of repsect and we wanted to win the game badly enough not to need issues off the pitch that have nothing to do with the game.” And Mallett singled out the improvements Italy have made in defence and in fitness for their ability to compete week in, week out at Six Nations level.

They made 110 tackles against Scotland for an 88 percent success rate but the South African coach said he didn’t want his team to always be forced into such a position.

“It’s not always a good thing to tackle more than your opponents, it’s better to have the ball but it shows that we can play with ball in hand while without it we’re not as weak as we were 10 years ago when after two or three phases everyone had mouths open all over the field,” he added.

Despite the defeat, Scotland coach Andy Robinson insisted his tactics are the right ones for the future.

Scotland have received much praise this season for their expansive running game but they have nonetheless lost all three matches in the Six Nations.

But Robinson, the former England coach and international, insisted they will persevere despite at times being out-muscled by Italy.

“We’re here to win matches and that’s part of what we’re about but what I said to the team is we’ve got to keep pushing in the way we’re trying to play,” he said.

“I thought we performed well at times but it’s down to accuracy when the ball is in the hands and the willingness at the breakdown to fight to win the breakdown battle.

“Italy in the beginning, by foul means or fair were winning the battle at the breakdown.

“That’s where we’ve got to work a little bit harder to be tough around the breakdown area, for me that’s important.” Scotland captain Chris Cusiter said his team had paid for their lack of clinicism when approaching their opponents’ tryline.

“We put ourselves in a good position at 12-9 after a slow start when we went 6-0 down, but we got back into the game and put pressure on them in their half,” he said.

“We thought we’d kick on and put pressure on and get the score that I thought was coming, but they got themselves back in the game with the try.

“We made one error and there was a try and that’s the unforgiving nature of the Six Nations.

“We weren’t clinical enough in our execution. The game hinges on these events, we didn’t score when we needed to, they got one opportunity and took it.

“Well done to them, they won the game.”

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