Six Nations 2015: Italy need more than rolling maul to beat France

Our resident Italian looks ahead to Sunday's match in Rome as the Azzurri look to win back the Garibaldi Trophy

By Matteo Mangiarotti
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Italy celebrate famous win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield Photo by Jason O'Callaghan

Italy’s win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield almost a fortnight ago has changed the course of their championship and is expected to help them avoid the wooden spoon.

There is a concern that the win could have put more pressure on the shoulders of captain Sergio Parisse and his team-mates, and created great expectations that the youngsters may not be able to cope with.

Few gave the Azzurri hope of defeating Vern Cotter’s Dark Blues on the road with Italy’s only other away win in the championship coming at the same venue eight years earlier.

“Nobody trusted us, nobody believed in our chances to win the game today. And when I say nobody, I really mean nobody,” Parisse said after the game.

“When I woke up this morning and watched myself in the mirror, for a little while I doubted myself our chances.

“But when we reached BT Murrayfield and gathered in the dressing room, I told my team-mates that we were alone, we had to stand alone in front of Scotland and get that victory.”

It was a candid admission from Italy’s talisman after securing a 22-19 win inspired by their forwards and their destructive driving maul, which led to two of their three tries.

To win against France, Italy will need to improve their game and show consistency, a reliable game plan, to assess their kicks at goal; surely, they cannot rely only on the rolling mauls and hope for good luck to assist them again.

The win was unexpected but, nonetheless, a deserved one. Michele Visentin and Enrico Bacchin made their bow not only with the Azzurri shirt, but in the RBS 6 Nations itself – and what a debut for both of them it was as they held their own against more illustrious opposition.

Flanker Simone Favaro showed, in front of most of his new future Glasgow Warriors supporters that Gregor Townsend and his staff have made a good decision to sign him in up for next season.

Full-back Luke McLean was superb with a man of the match performance and captain Parisse played like that afternoon in Edinburgh was his last game, giving absolutely everything he had to offer for his country.

However, while Italy have won the last two home games against France, on Sunday the Azzurri will have to face a tough, tough challenge to make it a third in a row at the Stadio Olimpico.

France are quite desperate after a disappointing start to the campaign saw them scrape past Scotland before defeats to Ireland and Wales.

Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre has lost the control of the dressing room, and there is a desire in France to get him out the door after the Rugby World Cup. Despite their problems, and with eight changes to the side that lost last time out, they are still a menace and overwhelming favourites to win.

France go into the match as overwhelming favourites, but if Brunel can keep the players focused, they will have a great opportunity to get their second win in this year’s Six Nations – something entirely unexpected just a month ago.

Italy may have secured a famous victory against Scotland last time out, but they were far from being flawless and, as much as they deserved to win, the Dark Blues threw the game away in the second half.

To win against France, Italy will need to improve their game and show consistency, a reliable game plan, to assess their kicks at goal; surely, they cannot rely only on the rolling mauls and hope for good luck to assist them again.

Kelly Haimona has come through fitness concerns to keep his place at outside-half ahead of Tommaso Allan, which allows Italy head coach Jacques Brunel to keep changes in the backline to a minimum.

He might not be a sniper from the tee, and in Edinburgh he played his worst Test match to date, but Haimona at least offers consistency.

The return of Wasps centre Andrea Masi, who missed the win over Scotland with a calf tear, cannot be understated as he slots back into the midfield alongside Luca Morisi.

The fierce rivalry between Italy and France – they both refer to each other as Transalpini – “who lives across the Alps” – and the renewed enthusiasm from the Italians should bring thousands of supporters to the Stadio Olimpico, with Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) aiming for a sell-out.

France go into the match as overwhelming favourites, but if Brunel can keep the players focused, they will have a great opportunity to get their second win in this year’s Six Nations – something entirely unexpected just a month ago – and bring the Trofeo Garibaldi back to the Italian capital for the third time.

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