Delighted Mallett eyes repeat performance
February 28, 2010
Italy's Micro Bergamasco salutes the Stadio Flaminio crowd following his side's victory over Scotland © Getty Images
Italy coach Nick Mallett was bursting with pride following his side's Six Nations victory over Scotland in Rome and has set his sights on another big showing against Grand Slam-chasing France in Paris.
The Azzurri won for the first time in nearly two years in the Championship with a 16-12 victory over the Scots that Mallett feels was due reward for the work his side have done in the last six months.
"We have improved our defence consistently over the last six months," said Mallett. "We have given away just one try in our last two games and that's not a bad effort considering who we were facing and the holes Italy had in defence in previous campaigns. I think our November Tests were crucial for the team to improve."
Mallett believes, after wooden spoon performances in 2008 and 2009, his team is finally showing its true colours. And he could find no negatives in his side's performance against Scotland, a game in which the hosts scored a rare try when substitute Pablo Canavosio crossed over in the 67th minute.
"Nothing," he said. "We won. We are very satisfied that we managed to hold Scotland. I am very proud of our defence and particularly, proud of the try scored, which was a beautiful play, as we had been working on our attack in recent weeks.
"We've shown we can play quick rugby. But it's not only this game. Our tackles have been great also against Ireland and England. It goes to show that the team have the capacity to play with the hands but also without the ball."
Mallett predicted Italy's Craig Gower would stand out in this tournament and so far, the Australian-born hooker has not disappointed him. "We have found a great number 10 in Gower," said the coach. "Gower has done a great job, making great tackles and giving a big contribution to the team."
Mallett says confidence is growing in the Italian camp with Saturday's victory their seventh of all-time for the Azzurri in the Six Nations. "This is a completely different feeling when you manage to hold on for a win," he said. "This is great for the players and great for the squad."
However, Mallett has warned his players to keep their feet on the ground. "Just because we have beaten Scotland doesn't mean we think we are better than them," he said. We have a lot of respect for Scottish rugby. In fact, my players were very impressed by how Scotland played against Wales and they were nervous as to how they were going to play against us. We are keeping very humble."
Italy face France next month before ending the tournament in Cardiff against Wales on March 20. And even though their Grand Slam chasing hosts will be overwhelming favourites, Mallett believes they have nothing to fear from Les Bleus. "France have won three out of three," said Mallett. "They are a very strong side. But we have proved that when we play at 100% we can do a great."