Italian backs respond to Malletts prompts

by staff

Italy's backline responded with elan to the challenge laid down to them by coach Nick Mallett to help the side to a much needed 53-17 bonus-point victory over Russia.

Tommaso Benvenuti was switched to a more familiar outside centre role while Giulio Toniolatti and Luke McLean were brought in on the wings in the hope of scoring the four tries needed ahead of matches with USA and Ireland.

They were changes that worked to perfection as Benvenuti and Toniolatti scored two tries apiece, while McLean scored Italy's eighth try of the night.

It was a much-changed performance overall as backs and forwards linked up seamlessly in a way that was missing in their opening defeat by Australia.

"It was definitely a fun day at the office," McLean said. "It was more enjoyable to get the ball out wide and we had more ball to play with.

"They boys enjoyed it and we need to take that forward to the next games so that we advance."

Italy showed their intent to attack with the ball in hand early on. After fly half Riccardo Bocchino missed his first penalty attempt, he kicked the next into touch for the lineout.

Italian nerves

From a set move number 8 and captain Sergio Parisse started the try scoring when he crashed over after only three minutes.

It settled Italian nerves and set the tone for the remainder of the match.

"It was good to get some early tries to put Russia under pressure," McLean said. "We talked about that in the sheds before the game.

"We wanted to play simple rugby and put them under as much pressure as possible, because as we saw when they played the USA if you give them a sniff, they get a massive lift."

Substitute Alessandro Zanni came on to score only his second international try in 56 appearances, Eduardo Gori scored his first in an international and referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try for a number of collapsed scrums on the Russia line.

It was a result and performance that left coach Mallett effusive in his praise.

"In this game we were able to play more attacking rugby than we did in the whole of the Six Nations," he said.

Roaring Bears

After conceding four tries in quick succession Russia only started to improve once replacement scrum half Alexander Yanyushkin came on for Alexander Shakirov after only 28 minutes.

He sparked some life into the Bears, leading to tries from Yanyushkin, Vladimir Ostroushko and Alexey Makovetskiy.

"We wanted to introduce him in the second half to speed up our game but were forced to do that in the first," Russia coach Nikolay Nerush said.

"Yanyushkin made our attack more efficient and he scored the first try himself."

The one slight concern for the Azzurri were the three tries they conceded from relatively little pressure from Russia.

With attackers of the ilk of Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe awaiting them in Irish colours, the team are well aware their defensive performance must match their new-found attacking prowess.

"It is a good lesson because against Ireland we will need to be perfect in defence," Gori said. "There are lots of things we can work on before then."