Italy kick off RWC warm ups with Japan victory

Italy got their Rugby World Cup warm up campaign off to a good start with a 31-24 victory over Japan in Cesena.

Italy move on to Edinburgh to play Scotland next week in their last friendly before heading out to New Zealand.

Italy scored tries through Matteo Pratichetti, Edoardo Gori, Leonardo Ghiraldini
and Andrea Lo Cicero while young fly-half Riccardo Bocchino kicked three conversions.

Substitute Luciano Orquera kicked the rest of Italy’s points.

Japan’s tries came from backs Takeysa Usuzuki and Koji Taira as well as a penalty
try while fly-half James Arlidge didn’t miss a kick all night.

Italy coach Nick Mallett’s choice to pick an experienced pack and youthful
backs seemed to have paid dividends early in the game as the hosts carved the
Brave Blossoms apart at will.

However, they then let the visitors back into the game and Mallett complained
that their defence was not good enough.

"In the first 20 minutes we kept the ball perfectly well, the forwards
and backs played as a team that knew what system they were supposed to play,"
he said.

"The change in the first half was not in atack but in defence where we
gave away many chances to their strong players.

"But this Japan team are not a lot worse than us, they’re a good team
with experienced players in the backs who are very good.

"If we had defended as well as we attacked in the first 20 minutes then
we would have won this game 35-10 but our defence was not at the same level
as our attack."

Japan captain Takashi Kikutani said his team had not managed to adjust to the
European style of game, something they’re not used to.

"We expected them to force many penalties in the scrum as they did so
in the Six Nations," he said.

"We knew that would happen, we knew they would be very strong in the maul
and line-out and we should have adjusted. We’ll take experience from here to
use in the fututre."

The first try on four minutes was all too easy as Italy probed left then went
right with Bocchino, making his first start, playing a dummy pass and then slipping
the ball inside to Pratichetti to go under the posts.

Bocchino kicked the extras and then on 12 minutes scrum-half Edoardo Gori picked
and went from the back of a ruck, ducked under two tackles and dived over line.

Again Bocchino converted but Japan settled and started to work they way back
into the game.

They scored a well-worked try on 23 minutes as Arlidge’s grubber kick on the
left wing was kicked on by Usuzuki who then touched down.

Arlidge converted and following an Italian mistake, Japan scored again.

Gori kicked straight into touch from just outside the Italy 22, Japan won good
line-out ball and spread it wide right before Taira found a gap to burrow over.

After another successful kick Japan edged their noses in front as Bocchino
hit the post with a penalty from 25 yards before Arlidge landed one from wide
left for a 17-14 lead at the break.

Having let slip a commanding lead, Italy turned to their pack at the start
of the second half and a driving maul resulted in a try for Ghiraldini, with
Bocchino converting.

Japan simply couldn’t cope with Italy’s maul and from a line-out five yards
out, the Azzurri drove diagonally towards the posts before Lo Cicero drove through
a pile of collapsing bodies to score.

However, moments later Lo Cicero was yellow-carded with Japan five yards out
and the visitors went for their own driving maul, resulting in a penalty try
as Italy were punished for coming in from the side to break the momentum.

But just as Lo Cicero came back on, Japan prop Hisateru Hirashima was himself
sin-binned and Luciano Orquera kicked a penalty, rounding o

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