Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

Mallett finds reasons to be cheerful

Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett insists Italy's pride remains intact despite their 29-11 defeat by Ireland in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Croke Park.

The Azzurri, who ended a 13-match losing streak with victory over Samoa last autumn, appeared to be heading for a heavy loss as they slipped 23-3 behind in the 39th minute. But a charge-down try by winger Kaine Robertson and combative second half in which they frustrated Ireland prevented the predicted rout from unfolding.

"I've never said we came here to get a result," said the Azzurri's head coach. "We always try to play the best we can and we were playing against the side that won the Six Nations last season, beat South Africa and drew with Australia. They didn't lose a match last year."

He added: "We know that, for a number of reasons, we have to play really well to retain pride in what we do and that's what we set out to achieve.

"At 23-8 at half time there was a real possibility we could have leaked another two or three tries in the second half with all the ball Ireland had.

"The fact we didn't and that we showed some fantastic defence and scored six more points makes me very proud."

While Mallett highlights the positives from a day when Italy's lineout misfired abysmally and their scrum suffered, Gloucester second row Marco Bortolami sees danger looming against England.

The Azzurri host Martin Johnson's side next Sunday and Bortolami is concerned another set-piece malfunction could have disastrous consequences.

"Our scrum and lineout has to improve for England," said the 29-year-old veteran of 77 caps. "We have to win our own ball otherwise it will be very difficult to compete with them.

"Test rugby is about field position - winning your ball and waiting for the opposition to make a mistake. If we don't win our ball then we'll put ourselves under pressure and that's not good enough."

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