Smith: Italy continuing to move in right direction despite Wales defeat

FrancoSmith (1)
Franco Smith believes Italy remain on an upward trajectory, despite going down 48-7 against Wales in Rome.

Franco Smith believes Italy remain on an upward trajectory, despite going down 48-7 against Wales in Rome.

Monty Ioane scored for the Azzurri but Wayne Pivac’s visitors ran in seven tries to stay firmly on course for a second Grand Slam title in three years.

Italy remain winless in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations but Smith says they’re doing everything they can to end their current run.

The South African said:  “We ended up fighting and tackling, at certain times of the game these guys, who work to make you proud, played very well.

“Even within our growth path this defeat weighs – there is a lot of hard work to do, physically we have improved and with Wales, we have paid dearly for the two yellow cards.

“It is not a question of lack of concentration, the mistake comes because the boys want to do too much and be precise. An athlete can make a mistake like this. Unfortunately, we are not yet at the level we wanted to be.

“They were united and continued to work. If today we only see the score then I am frustrated, but we remember that we still lack years of experience and some players have already made a great growth. I can’t give solutions now – Italy must follow its path.”

Ken Owens scored an unlikely first-half double for Wales while Josh Adams and Taulupe Faletau also crossed before the break.

Ioane dotted down for the hosts at the start of the second period but tries from George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit fired Wales to victory and extended their unbeaten record.

Captain Luca Bigi and Marco Riccioni both received yellow cards for Italy as Smith’s players struggled to maintain their discipline throughout.

Bigi says lapses in concentration hurt them and is calling on his team’s most experienced heads to bring the group together ahead of the clash with Scotland next week.

The hooker said: “It’s a tough moment – we conceded too many soft penalties and they put us under pressure.

“We have to be focused for a whole 80 minutes and when we conceded a soft moment, they scored against us. That’s killed us.

“As players, we have to take some positives from the game. When we held the ball, when we created phases, we really put Wales under pressure. But we didn’t score.

“The last ten minutes, we built phases on their 22 but we didn’t score. We have to learn from that. It’s tough – [there were] too many soft moments during the game, too many soft penalties that put us under pressure on the scoreboard.

“How do we start again? The group has an important integrity and it is up to the most experienced players to make them feel even more united.

“It is not hiding behind the obvious – we will find ourselves as a group once again to relate to this match and prepare a Guinness Six Nations week for another chance.”