Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

RaboDirect Pro12: Phillips eyes improvementI

It is just horrible when it happens. You spend the pre-season talking up the forthcoming campaign and getting busy in bolstering your squad and then when it gets serious you’re turned over 32-9 in the first game.



If Aironi wanted to make some form of bold statement, at the start of only their second season in existence, then they clearly fell well short of the mark at the Scarlets on Sunday.

Head coach Rowland Phillips probably had an inkling that these might be difficult times as he is currently missing 10 frontline players who are all with the Italy squad at the World Cup, although he can still call upon the experienced Josh Sole and Tito Tebaldi.

Aironi’s away record has been nothing to write home about – still to register a single success – but they have shown they can be a difficult proposition at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella.

They ran Ulster close a year ago, but both were probably sick of each other by the end of the season, meeting another three times thanks to being drawn in the same European pool.

And there’s no escape again this season as both are in Pool Four with Clermont Auvergne and Leicester.

After finishing bottom of last season’s Magners table, Phillips was determined to improve and bring greater cutting edge to the side and, once Italy’s World Cup is done, having full back Andrea Masi, in from Racing Metro, should be a huge boost.

Aironi have also sourced new recruits in out-half Naas Oliver and back rower Frans Viljoen from the Cheetahs, while Hurricanes’ scrum-half Tyson Keats and Samoan winger Sinoti Sinoti are also on the books.

They should be better this season. It’s just hard to know when the intended results will arrive.

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