Mallet blames Italian clubs for Gower mess

Italy coach Nick Mallett pointed the finger at the country’s two Celtic League clubs, Treviso and Aironi, for landing him with a fly-half headache as he leaves for New Zealand to take part in the World Cup.

South African Mallett will travel without first choice fly-half Craig Gower and with instead two players, Luciano Orquera and Riccardo Bocchino, who have hardly played all season.

Former Australia Rugby League international Gower could not find a club for next season and, having since signed a deal which will see him start with English rugby league side Harlequins in 2012, has forfeited the chance to play at the World Cup.

“That was very frustrating, I know he would have loved to come to the World Cup but it’s simply a problem in the professional era, a player’s got to take the best decision for himself and his family,” said Mallett.

“He’s 33 years old, I thought he was going to finish his career in fifteens (union) and if he’d been given a contract post World Cup in Italy (he would have).

“There were opportunities, especially at Aironi who don’t have a fly-half, and I don’t understand why they didn’t think long-term and give him a year plus one year (contract) because it’s not as though they’ve got a lot of fly-halves and that would have allowed him to come because he’s all right.”

Gower officially pulled out because he said he wasn’t fit enough to take part as he recovers from a knee ligament injury sustained during the November Tests, a claim Mallett contradicted.

“Quite clearly our medical team have got him into the state that he can play but he’s got no future after the World Cup so to come to the World Cup and only get the money for the World Cup and nothing afterwards makes no sense for a person like that,” added Mallett.

“He had a rugby league team who offered him a two-year contract from next season right the way through and it makes sense for him to take that decison.

“From our point of view we’d invested 11 or 12 tests in him and it’s frustrating because he’s a guy who has a lot of experience, not at fifteens, but the more he would have played with us the better he would have got because he’s a guy who played rugby league at a very high level.

“Already he gave us a lot of security in defence and attacked the gain line and we’d have improved his kicking game so it’s been a big loss.”

For Mallett the main problem lies in the Italian Federation, which subsidises the two Celtic League teams but does not have enough of a say in picking players for the two clubs.

“The real problem here is the ability of the Italian Federation and the national coach to insist with the Celtic League teams that they have to give a guy a contract,” complained Mallett.

“Because if you go to a World Cup and you need a fly half, we can’t have one of the Celtic League teams saying, ‘no we don’t want this guy’, if we (Italy) need him desperately.

“It’s ridiculous in my view that the Federation pays 60 percent of the coach’s contract, the director of rugby’s contract, the medical staff’s contracts and every player that interests the national side, and yet we’ve got an occasion when we need a player and the final say rests with the Celtic team.

“That’s a situation that can’t work in the future and I’ve spoken with the (Italian Federation) president (Giancarlo Dondi) about that.”

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