Serra hails Pumas ‘attitude’

FULLBACK Federico Serra scored 19 points as Argentina beat Italy 24-6 in Mendoza on Saturday in their final home test before the World Cup.

Argentina’s third test win in a row following a 2-0 series victory over Ireland in the previous fortnight, should lift the Pumas to an unprecedented fifth place in the world rankings, overtaking the Irish.

Serra scored the home side’s second try, which he converted, and kicked four penalties, after wing Francisco Leonelli had run in the opening try just before the half hour and the Pumas led 18-3 at the interval.

For the first try, centre Martin Gaitan received the ball from a ruck, evaded two tackles and passed out to Leonelli who ran over unopposed. Serra’s try was similar, only the attack was through the middle of the Italian defence.

Serra was voted man-of-the-match for his 19-point effort and said afterward: “The defence was the strong point of the team. That relaxed the players and gave them the confidence needed to create problems.

“Without any doubts, we are in good shape in the defence as there is a structure which every player knows how to fulfil.

“The most important thing is the attitude and the Pumas have a lot of that,” he added.

The Italians have now lost three tests in succession against Argentina, the previous two at home, following a surprise away victory in a shared series in 2005. The overall tally is 9-4 to Argentina with one draw in 14 meetings.

Both coaches fielded virtual reserve sides in the absence of leading players. Around a dozen Pumas and Italy internationals were tied up in the French championship final between Stade Francais and Clermont-Auverge in Paris.

Argentina have a final warm-up test against Wales in Cardiff on August 18 before the World Cup where they meet hosts France in the opening match in Paris on September 7. They also play Ireland, Georgia and Namibia in Pool D. Italy are in Pool C with New Zealand, Scotland, Romania and Portugal.

Scorers for Argentina: Tries: Contepomi, Serra. Cons: Serra. Pens: Serra 4.

Scorers for Italy: Pens: Bortolussi 2.

ARGENTINA: Serra, Agulla, Gaitan, Contepomi, Leonelli, Bosch, N. Fernandez Miranda, Henn, Gambarini, Hasan, I. Fernandez Lobbe, Carizza, Durand, J. Fernandez Lobbe, Leguizamon. Replacements: J. Fernandez Miranda for Bosch (68), Guinazu for Henn (51), Schusterman for Durand (65).

ITALY: Bortolussi, Robertson, Galante, Stoica, Pratichetti, Burton, Canavosio, Lo Cicero, Ongaro, Nieto, Del Fava, Bernabo, Sole, Mandelli, Barbieri.

Replacements: Galon for Galante (80), Griffen for Canavosio (29), Festuccia for Ongaro (47), Staibano for Nieto (56), Pavanello for Bernabo (74), Orlando for Mandelli (56), Aguero for Barbieri (71).

Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand).

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