Coach plays down Italy chances v Wallabies - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Coach plays down Italy chances v Wallabies

By Darren Walton 09/09/2011 02:55:36 PM Comments (0)

Coach Nick Mallett says losing former NRL star Craig Gower for the Rugby World Cup was quite a blow to Italy's chances.

He also claims it would be an achievement if the Azzurri got within 20 points of Australia in Sunday's Pool A opener at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium.

Mallett may be telling the truth but the Wallabies would be wise to take no notice because the wily former Springboks coach has tried these tricks before.

Mallett lulled the Wallabies into a false sense of security three years ago in Padova, where the tourists escaped with a lucky 10-point win after super-sub Quade Cooper - on debut - scored a freakish late try to break a 20-all deadlock.

Australia also required a swag of penalty goals from Berrick Barnes in Florence last November to keep the rugged Italians at bay in a 32-14 victory.

Still, Mallett did his best on Friday to play down his side's chances of springing what, to be fair, would be a huge World Cup boilover.

"As Queensland won the Super 15 and Australian won the Tri Nations, one could argue that they're the form team going into this World Cup," he said.

"I don't think Italy ever goes into any World Cup or Six Nations or any tour down under anywhere saying they're confident of beating any one.

"But we are confident we are getting better and also confident that we can provide a really good challenge against Australia."

Gower, bound for London Harlequins in the English Super League, hasn't played for Italy since hurting his knee against Argentina last November, so Mallett admitted his long absence hadn't been a disruption.

"But he was a guy who I was hoping would come (to New Zealand)," he said.

"To be honest, I was hoping he would because of his experience as a top-level rugby player, not necessarily in 15s (rugby union) but he's played a lot of high level in rugby league and has played in the French championship at 10.

"So he was a guy who brought a little bit of experience and he's a very good defender.

"But for the last year we've been playing with (Luciano) Orquera (five-eighth) and we've had good results."

While Gower won't be sighted on Sunday, the 11th-ranked Italians do have one other Australian in their ranks and coach Mallett rates him highly too.

Townsville-born Luke McLean, a member of Australia's world championship-winning under-19s team five years ago, has been named on the bench to cover fullback and wing.

McLean has 29 Test caps to his name, including 14 in the Six Nations, and was strongly considered for a start at fullback ahead of Andrea Masi.

"Luke's a player who is slightly different to the guy who's starting," Mallett said.

"He's got a better kicking game, Luke. He's got a very good left foot and it's always an advantage having a left-footed fullback if you've got a right-footed flyhalf, so there was consideration.

"But Masi was voted te player of the Six Nations, which is an outstanding compliment to an Italian player."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news