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Azzurri's familiar failings leave O'Shea frustrated

 

By Michael Sadlier

Though, this time, there were no left-field interpretations of the rules, the narrative in Rome, on Sunday, was still a familiar one as Italy watched helplessly as England stretched away on the scoreboard.

As usual the Azzurri were out-gunned by England's superior firepower to leave Conor O'Shea somewhat frustrated, but hardly surprised, at being on the wrong end of the 46-15 scoreline after conceding seven tries.

And yet there were promising signs of progress despite the yawning gap at full-time.

Not surprisingly for a side overseen by O'Shea there was clear ambition with the ball in hand and when Italy put pace and width on their game they did get reasonable return.

Winger Tommaso Benvenuti's first half try when the Azzurri attacked down the left flank before spreading the ball right with a delightfully weighted pass being delivered by Tommaso Allan, will probably be as good as you'll see in this championship, while they might have even got a third and closed England's lead right down but for a forward pass.

But for all their willingness to attack some of Italy's old failings were their undoing with lack of accuracy and an inability to deliver any consistent intensity all being highly visible with their most glaring fault being the sizeable defensive holes which appeared to allow white shirts pour through into open country.

Despite this, O'Shea has only made minor tweaks to the side which started in Rome with only three changes being made and all being in the pack.

Two thirds of the front row have been changed with loose-head prop Nicola Quaglio and hooker Luca Bigi starting instead of Andrea Lovotti and Leonardo Ghiraldini respectively, while Brahm Steyn is at openside flanker for Renato Giammarioli.

An unchanged starting backline and replacements means, of course, no place for former Leinster player Ian McKinley which as O'Shea pointed out would have been a purely romantic selection.

But for all O'Shea's planning and the talk of shoots of recovery, you can't help but wonder what they will do when the great Sergio Parisse leaves the stage and if the best Italy can ever produce in the Six Nations has already been and gone.

Belfast Telegraph

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