By George Willoughby
Two games, two defeats and an all too familiar pattern for Italy who extended their winless Championship run to 19-straight defeats. Going into the competition, expectations for this Italy side were low. But, with not even a solitary bonus point to show for their efforts, fears of another extremely disappointing campaign looms.
In their opening fixture, Italy showed that there is character amongst the camp. After falling behind early against Scotland at Murrayfield, which is a challenging environment at the best of times, Italy fought back to record three tries in seven minutes to close out the game.
Sadly, the game was all but over at this stage, as a ruthless Scotland side piled on the points in the first 60-minutes of the game and never looked back. In fairness to Conor O’Shea’s men, they did look dangerous when they had possession. Italy have some individual talent in their ranks, but keeping the points out seems to be their constant undoing.
No matter how good you are going forward, if you’re defensively frail, then there will only be a losing outcome.
In the second-round of fixtures, Italy put up a much better fight against a very talented Wales side that were in search of their 11th consecutive win. Wales’s Dan Biggar was excellent, and he began proceedings with four penalties to leave Italy 12-0 down after 30 minutes.
The Italy of old would have folded there and then, but they responded brilliantly through a Braam Steyn try and Tommaso Allan, who placed his penalty through the posts, giving Italy a real chance of an upset result.
Italy tried to keep pace, but their lack of squad depth was very apparent after they struggled to maintain the competitive intensity which kept the game a tight affair. Edoardo Padovani recorded himself a try five minutes from time, but Italy fell to their second defeat of the tournament.
It’s hard to gauge just how many positives Italy can take from the two defeats. Yes, the three tries against Scotland showed promise, but the game was already out of reach at that point. As well, Wales made a variety of changes to their matchday squad so there was almost an expectance for them to compete to some extent.
With England and Ireland next up, it seems that Italy’s best chance of victory will be against France, who they host in Rome in the final match of the tournament.