Mallett bemoans the lack of Ashton style pace

One of the main differences between Italy and the best teams in the world is pace, according to both coach Nick Mallet and senior players.

As the inquest continues into the Azzurri’s humbling 59-13 thrashing at Twickenham two weeks ago, one thing the team has become starkly aware of is that they simply cannot rely on backs blessed with blinding pace.

And it is no coincidence that their tormentor in chief was England’s own flying winger Chris Ashton.

As they continued to lick their wounds ahead of Saturday’s clash at home to Wales, Italy were bemoaning the fact they can’t call on a similar speedster.

“He’s quick and he has the ability to be in the right place at the right time,” said Italy’s Australian-born fullback Luke McLean.

“He does work hard off the ball and he follows the ball. A lot of the time someone’s running and putting him into a gap but once he’s in that gap, it’s game over and there’s no recovering him.

“Obviously (Wales’s) Shane Williams is a bit similar but also different, he’s a bit more lively on his feet. The sheer pace is there but he’s smaller.”

Coach Nick Mallet said pace played a crucial role in the manner with which his team capitulated at Twickenham whist also pointing out that his own side’s lack of pace was one of the reasons they failed to put more points on the board against England.

“Three times in the last few years we’ve lost by 50 points, at home to France, in South Africa and now against England.

“Our team in reality must be at 100 percent in every game to be competitive.

“We’ve done it many times, also when we lost against Australia we had a great game for us but if we play badly and the oppostition plays well it’s dangerous because they have players who are much faster.

“If Ashton does the same interception as Mirco (Bergamsco did against England) it’s seven points for Italy, but we don’t have players that fast and that’s the reality.”

Bergamasco intercepted a pass in his own 22 and after dodging a pair of wrong-footed players he seemed to be in the clear.

However, he did not have the pace to go 90 yards to score under the posts as Ashton, among others, easily caught up with him by the time he reached half-way.

Ashton scored four tries in that game and while Italy’s players admire his talent, centre Gonzalo Canale is not a fan of the man.

The Northampton winger celebrated two of his tries with a one-fingered salute and exuberant dive over the line, despite his coach Martin Johnson having previously said he didn’t want to see such things.

Canale even remonstrated with Ashton after the first one, accusing him of making fun of the Italians.

“He’s a very good player, he’s very strong, he has impressive physical qualities,” said the Clermont centre.

“He scores many tries even though it’s not always apparent why, but he works very hard without the ball.

“But this piece of arrogance, I don’t like him as player or as a person.

“He has his way of celebrating tries but I’d like to see him drop the ball one day.

“But there’s nothing to say, he’s a great player. He’s very fast.

“It’s true that we don’t have a player as fast as this, it’s also one of the big differences between us and top level teams: speed.

“We have interesting players and a group that’s strong but we miss this thing.

“It’s an individual quality that you’re born with and one that you can work with from a young age.

“We don’t have a player like Shane Williams, Ashton or (Mark) Cueto. There was Kaine Robertson a while ago but he’s injured now.”

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