Italy vs Australia preview

Australia fly-half Quade Cooper has vowed to improve his tackling against Italy on Saturday after a performance last week that drew harsh criticism in his homeland.

Australia were well beaten 35-18 by England at Twickenham and Cooper in particular came under fire for missing tackles in the midfield.

But the 22-year-old, who made his debut against Italy two years ago in Padua, said that won’t be happening again.

“I’m in a position where you are going to get a lot of heat. The tackles weren’t too flash, the defence too, it’s one of the areas of my game I’m looking to improve on,” he admitted.

“I want to improve on it and the only way is to tackle blokes.”

Cooper retained his position in the team but will have former club team-mate Berrick Barnes outside him against the Azzurri.

The pair used to play together at Queensland Reds, switching positions between fly-half and inside centre before Barnes moved on to NSW Waratahs.

“After the time spent with Barnes at the Reds it’s going to be pretty easy for him to slot in there, the energy he brings and enthusiasm will be great,” added Cooper.

Coach Robbie Deans insisted his team will improve on the England game, in which they were run ragged by some surprisingly enterprising three-quarter play from Martin Johnson’s team.

“I’m looking for a better performance in terms of we were caught short by the English around the contact area in terms of intensity,” he said.

“We gave them access to the gain line too easily. Italy will have taken a lot out of that and will look to do likewise.

“We’ve got to stiffen that up both ways, defensively and technically, and strength around the contact area.”

The two sides played out a close encounter two years ago in Padua with Australia just edging clear in the final 10 minutes to win 30-20.

Deans is expecting much of the same from the Azzurri on Saturday.

“We have a good idea in terms of what we will experience, you don’t have to look further back than the last occasion over here,” he said.

“We have a lot of regard for them as a team, we got out of jail that night and we’re expecting more of the same.”

The pitch has allegedly been shortened and narrowed for the game while the weather is expected to be wet, which will likely make the ground heavy.

“We’ve just got to make the most of what’s there, if the weather stays like this (wet) it’s going to be soft as well, there’ll be a fair amount of contact,” said Deans.

“It’s going to be narrow and soft, a battle for the gain line. It’s going to be very important which team goes forward.

“They have a new cap at scrum-half so there’s a fair amount of pressure there and we’ll try to maximise that.”

That new cap is 20-year-old Treviso scrum-half Edoardo Gori who has never even played for his senior team yet.

With no experience at either Celtic League or European Cup level, this is a huge step up for Gori but Australian-born team-mate Luke McLean, who is a former Wallabies under-19 international, believes his club mate has what takes.

“Obviously I’ve got a lot of confidence in the kid seeing him at the club and he does put in a lot of hard yards,” he said.

“Every day we’ve got a day off he’s there doing skill work, working on his pass and working on his footwork, so I think he’ll go well, it will be a good experience for him.”

McLean is particularly keen to get one over his countrymen.

“I couldn’t think of anything better, obviously they’ve come off (a loss to England) and the midweek team lost to Munster as well, that’s not good for them,” he said.

“If we can make it three losses in a row that would be the best thing for us so we’ll be trying to do that.”

Italy have never beaten Australia in 14 tests but they have been getting closer.

Their last two home tests resulted in narrow defeats, 30-20 t

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