Griffen is Italian key, says Mallett - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Griffen is Italian key, says Mallett

by Barnaby Chesterman 15/02/2009 12:28:14 PM Comments (0)

Italy coach Nick Mallett said recalled scrum-half Paul Griffen would be the key for the Azzurri in their Six Nations clash against Ireland at Rome's Stadio Flaminio on Sunday.

Mallett said he had been reluctant to call up the New Zealand-born player because his mandate as Italy coach when he took over following the 2007 World Cup was to bring through younger Italian players ahead of the next global tournament in New Zealand in 2011.

It meant that Griffen, who will be 36 at the next World Cup, found himself sidelined.

But a scrum-half injury crisis has seen Mallett lose the services of Simon Picone, Pietro Travagli and Pablo Canavosio.

And after last week's experiment in playing Stade Francais flanker Mauro Bergamasco at number nine against England failed spectacularly, Griffen has been welcomed back into the fold.

Not only that, but his role will be vital against the Irish.

"I think Griffen's is the most important position. We have four nines injured," said the South African coach.

"We tried Mauro but that was not a good choice, (Giulio) Toniolatti had difficulties as well in the second half and I think the experience of a player like Griffen, even if in two or three years he will be too old for the World Cup, right now he can play a good match and help the team a lot."

Mallett gave Bergamasco just 40 minutes in the role against England, a game Italy lost 36-11, before bringing on Capitolina scrum-half Toniolatti, but Mallett revealed he has a long way to go to make the position his own.

"We talked a lot with Toniollatti this week, physically he's strong, he's fast and he has good spirit but technically he had the same difficulties as Mauro," he said.

"Mauro made four terrible passes and Toniolatti three. A player who plays at nine needs to pass better than this, also kicking and decision making. He needs more experience but that's long term work."

Mallett said he hadn't decided for how long he would call upon Griffen but revealed that he wasn't planning on repeating his Bergamasco experiment any time soon.

"This experiment wasn't a good one, I said it after the match. I made a mistake, I take responsibility for that," he said.

"Mauro didn't play a good half, he didn't have the experience needed but I don't want to talk about this, it's finished.

"After 40 minutes I changed it. We will see what we do in future situations with Mauro but I think this week I have chosen a player with a lot of experience.

"Paul Griffen has played many times for Italy and I hope that with him we have a player who can give the passes to put our team in better attacking positions."

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