Mallett eyeing wins as Italy ‘now believes’

NICK MALLETT claims Italy are beginning to enjoy the benefits of shedding their inferiority complex.

The Azzurri enjoyed their most successful RBS 6 Nations last year when they finished fourth after victories over Scotland and Wales.

And Mallett, appointed head coach in October, insists growing self-belief has underpinned the improvement in Italian rugby.

“For Italy there has been a psychological difficulty stemming from the fact they are the most recent addition to the Six Nations,” he said.

“They were outside looking in for a long time, so I imagine that during that time they developed an inferiority complex.

“But they’ve got rid of that through some great performances and brilliant victories. Those feelings of inferiority have gone and for rugby players that is absolutely critical. A player can’t walk onto the pitch worrying about losing by 50 points, because then he will lose by 50 points.”

Italy skipper Sergio Parisse agrees that Italy have grown accustomed to the Test arena.

He said: “We must play every match to the best of our ability if we are to continue improving.”

Parisse has replaced Marco Bortolami as Italy captain and Mallett insists the change did not require too much soul-searching.

“Sergio was so young when he started playing international rugby. His first World Cup was at 19, his second at 23,” he said. “He has tremendous experience and is an absolute certainty in his position. I think he’s one of the best number eights in world rugby. He has the respect of the opposition and his own players.”

Mallett has left Ramiro Pez out of his 25-man squad for the opening two games of the Championship. He has dropped the Venezia fly-half for the ties against Ireland on February 2 in Dublin and against England in Rome eight days later.

And the Azzurri will have to do without Gloucester lock Bortolami, 27, who is unavailable after suffering an eye injury.

Forwards: Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), CA Del Fava (Ulster), S Dellape (Biarritz), C Festuccia (Racing Metro Paris), L Ghiraldini (Calvisano), A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro Paris), C Nieto (Gloucester), S Parisse (Stade Francais, captain), S Perugini (Toulouse), T Reato (Femi CZ Rovigo), J Sole (Viadana), A Zanni (Calvisano).

Backs: Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), D Bortolussi (Montpellier), G Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), P Canavosio (Castres), E Galon (Cariparma), A Marcato (Treviso), A Masi (Biarritz), S Picone (Treviso), M Pratichetti (Calvisano), KP Robertson (Viadana), A Sgarbi (Treviso), P Travagli (Cariparma).

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