Mallet rues lack of club opportunities for Italy

Italy coach Nick Mallett couldn’t hide his frustration despite his side’s entertaining 31-24 victory over Japan at the Stadio Manuzzi in a World Cup warm-up on Saturday.

Italy scored four tries to their opponents’ three despite fielding a largely inexperienced backline.

With a half-back pairing whose average age was 22, and four backs with less than 10 caps, two of which had never started an Italy match, Mallett was pleased with how they equipped themselves.

But he said the fact that many of his players, particularly the younger ones, are not first choice for their clubs hampers him.

One such player is Riccardo Bocchino who made his first start for Italy in the crucial fly-half position, but who has had two frustrating seasons with Aironi, and Rovigo before that, playing little for either side.

“It’s not possible to analyse a player’s first test match start. Bocchino is a young Italian player who if he had the confidence of his club coach and if he had played 15 games with Aironi last year and with Rovigo the year before,” said Mallett.

“But he’s a player who was just starting his international experience and it’s very difficult to do this.

“There’s no doubt that he’s a player with a bright future but it’s difficult to say he’s the solution to our problems at number 10.

“The problem at number 10 is a problem Italy has had for 10 years, the problem is top division teams have always signed contracts with foreigners to play at 10 who can’t play for Italy.

“We saw the same problem at scrum-half for my first two years. I’m delighted we’ve found (Edoardo) Gori and (Fabio) Semenzato.

“But the important thing is to give an opportunity to Italians in key positions at club level and especially at Celtic League level.

“That’s nine, 10, second row, props, eight, in all of them we need Italians. This was a young Italian backline that played against a good international team.

“Luke McLean often doesn’t start at full-back for Treviso because there’s (Brendan) Williams who plays there.

“Gori isn’t first choice, Ricky isn’t first choice, Matteo Pratichetti hasn’t always played. (Tommaso) Benvenuti and (Giulio) Toniolati didn’t play much this year, it’s a backline with very little experience.

“I’m very happy with the way they played together but of course the reason we won was our pack, not our backs.

“They played well, the captain (Sergio Parisse), (Alessandro) Zanni, Mauro (Bergamasco), the whole back row, the front row, we dominated Japan in the pack and that’s how we won the game.”

In the first half it was Pratichetti and Gori who sneaked over the try-line but Italy made the difference in the second period with push-over tries from their forwards, front-rowers Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lo Cicero getting their names on the scoresheet.

Japan replied with two well worked tries in the backs through Takeysa Usuzuki and Koji Taira before adding a penalty try when Italy were down to 14 men.

Japan coach John Kirwan, a former All Black and ex-Italy coach, was largely satisfied with his side.

“I was very happy with the experience, I think we started slowly but when we started to get into the rhythm of the game we did very good things with the ball in hand,” he said.

“We came here to learn to cope with a European style of rugby. Italy had us under pressure in the line-out for 80 minutes.

“Their scrum and maul was strong, it’s a different type of rugby. But we could’ve won the game. I’m very happy with the experience, I think it will help us moving into the World Cup.”


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