Italy aiming to turn 6 Nations defeat into RWC win
Updated: September 29, 2011, 01:00
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DUNEDIN, New Zealand(AP) Italy's players have the chance to show they have learned the lessons of their narrow Six Nations loss to Ireland when they meet at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
The closest Italy has come to beating Ireland since 1997 came in February when Luke McLean's 74th-minute try gave the home side an 11-10 lead in Rome. But a missed conversion meant that when Ireland got back upfield from the restart, Ronan O'Gara was able to snatch a 13-11 win with a dropped goal.
"We take confidence out of that, knowing we were there or thereabouts,'' McLean said Thursday. "It was only a couple of minor details, a couple of minor errors that maybe we have to take out of our game and it's a completely different result.
"You secure that ball, you play 2 minutes of pick and goes, or you kick the ball down and they've got 80 meters to score three points. It's like any game: a knock-on here, a penalty there and they get three points. It's those little things in tight games that make the difference.''
With a quarterfinal place going to the winner of Sunday's match in Dunedin, the pressure is on the Italians to show they have improved on those little things.
Although it was Mirco Bergamasco's missed kick that left Ireland with just a two-point deficit to recover, McLean said it was not necessarily the kicker that had let Italy down in Rome.
"It's a team effort. And anyway, mistakes were made previous to that that led to the fact they were so close,'' McLean said. "Maybe if we had taken our opportunities, we would have been ahead by seven points and it wouldn't have mattered.''
Although the Italians are on a run of 15 straight losses against Ireland - including every meeting since they were admitted to an expanded Six Nations competition in 2000 - they remain optimistic of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time.
South African coach Nick Mallet has maintained the side's progress, with last season's victory over France ranking as the country's best Six Nations win.
"We've scored 13 tries, that's one more than Ireland, and maybe we can score more,'' veteran scrumhalf Alessandro Troncon said.
And if Italy needed any more motivation, there are always memories of the meeting with Scotland at the corresponding stage of the last World Cup.
Italy would have advanced with victory over the Scots in the final pool match but succumbed 18-16 despite scoring the only try. Scotland wing Chris Paterson kicked six penalties from six attempts to send his side through and send the Italians home.
"There is a big motivation for Sunday, because Italy never passed to the quarterfinals,'' Troncon said. "There are big memories of that game and the atmosphere.''