Castrogiovanni lets rip after Deans slur

Italy and Leicester Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni on Thursday angrily hit back at claims from Australia coach Robbie Deans that he hoodwinks the referee.

Australia beat Italy 32-14 in Florence last Saturday but the ‘Azzurri’ were superior in the scrum, with all four first half scrums ending in Australia penalties, two of which were successfully kicked by the hosts.

The Wallabies’ pack has recently come under fire as they were also dominated up front by England, leading Deans to complain about rival scrums.

But Castrogiovanni, the 29-year-old tighthead known popularly as Castro, accused Deans of sour grapes and said Australia should learn when to admit defeat.

“Their scrum didn’t go well against us or England, they’ve got a great team, one of the best in the world but they have to accept that we were better in the scrum and they just have to work on it,” Castro told AFP by telephone in an exclusive interview.

“In the southern hemisphere the scrum is not as strong as in Europe where you have the best scrums in the world.

“It’s not a case of me commiting fouls, it wasn’t my fault, we were just better than them in that part of the game.”

After the game Deans had accused Castro of “rolling in” and also later went on to accuse the New Zealand scrum of “trickery”.

“I feel the tighthead gets far too much pay for rolling in and (referee) Christophe Berdos was going round the other side and getting it wrong,” Deans said after the Italy match.

“He’s an experienced tighthead so he plays the game, he knows where the ref is and chooses his moments cleverly and they profited from that.”

But Castro reacted angrily to those comments.

“It’s not fair to accuse me of fouling or to tarnish my image with this kind of reputation,” he said.

“It’s not because we foul, it’s because we work hard to make the scrum difficult for them.

“Robbie Deans should just admit that we’re better than them in the scrum and they have to work more on it.

“We’ve worked hard on our scrum, it’s our main strength so it’s not fair to accuse us of cheating, it’s not acceptable.

“He’s a great coach but he’s never been in a scrum to see who’s fouling and who’s not,” added Castro about the New Zealander, a former All Blacks full-back.

“This gives a bad impression of me and that’s not fair. I don’t foul, I compete, I work hard, I’m experienced and I always try to improve.

“There’s a game behind his comments, it’s to put pressure on the referees.”

Castro is widely regarded as one of the best tightheads in the world. Even his opposite number in Florence, James Slipper, said as much before facing him.

But last November New Zealand complained bitterly about Italy’s srummaging, leading to Paddy O’Brien, the International Rugby Board’s referee manager, to accuse Castro’s technique of being illegal.

“After that All Blacks game I had many penalties go against me for maybe three or four months until the Six Nations when Paddy O’Brien came to talk to me and (Italy coach) Nick Mallett,” added Castro.

“After the Six Nations things went better because referees understood better.”

However, Castro doesn’t expect such criticisms to be repeated after Saturday’s match against Fiji in Modena.

“Of course not, Fiji are like Italy, we’re not very important teams in the rankings,” he said.

“The top four in the world work a lot on pressuring referees but it won’t be like that against Fiji.

“Like us they accept it when they lose a match and they keep going forward and I think that’s the right way.”

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