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Mallett hails Azzurri belief

Nick Mallett

Italy coach Nick Mallett insists his men head to Twickenham convinced they can make history with a first victory over England.

The Azzurri came within minutes of beating Ireland for the first time last Saturday, only for Ronan O'Gara to wreck their dreams with a last-gasp drop goal.

"Only average teams consider defeats as good results, even close defeats," reflected Italy captain Sergio Parisse.

And Mallett was encouraged by the determined and positive manner in which Italy have responded to last week's disappointment.

"I am very happy to hear what Sergio said. That game taught us a lesson in how to close out tight matches," Mallett said. "It gave us a lot of confidence to know that if we do get things right we can win games.

"We have been trying to improve over the last 18 months and we have built a lot of confidence as a side. Every time we play, the team believes they have the ability to win the game. This was borne out by the game against Ireland.

"Beating England at Twickenham is something Italy have never done in the history of their rugby. It would be a fantastic achievement. It wouldn't be realistic to say we are favourites but we definitely have a better chance than we did two years ago."

On that occasion, Mallett was left without a front line scrum-half and he pressed flanker Mauro Bergamasco into the role with dreadful results as England won 36-11.

Mallet has been forced into a scrum-half change again after Pablo Canavosio today informed the Italian management he was short of full fitness and unable to last a whole game.

Treviso's Fabio Semenzato will now make his Test debut, having only joined the squad last weekend after first-choice scrum-half Eduardo Gori suffered a dislocated shoulder against Ireland. Canavosio, who has been capped 23 times by Italy, will start from the bench.

PA