Smith: Italy will use defeat positively

Franco Smith during the press conference 1/2/2020
New Italy head coach Franco Smith says his side will use defeat in Wales in a positive manner.

New Italy head coach Franco Smith says his side will use defeat in Wales in a positive manner.

Smith, previously head coach at South Africa’s Cheetahs and Benetton Rugby, is in temporary charge with the Azzurri after taking over from Conor O’Shea but got his reign off to a losing start as Wales prevailed 42-0.

Italy started brightly at the Principality Stadium with some cutting forays from Carlo Canna and Mattia Bellini, but found themselves pegged back first by Dan Biggar’s boot and then two tries from Josh Adams.

Again at the start of the second half Italy started strongly but couldn’t convert into scoreboard pressure, with further tries from Nick Tompkins, George North and Adams again seeing off their challenge.

“If you’ve played this game you know there’s ups and downs, there’s two ways of looking at disappointment,” commented Smith after the defeat.

“One is negative, and it’s the end of the world, or you use that in your favour and I feel there is change in Italy coming, the way we want to play. The way we see the future and unfortunately where do you start that change?

“Tonight if you look at the game again you will see there were errors, it wasn’t lack of commitment and it wasn’t lack of ability, it was errors that forced us into defending too much and chasing a lead of 14, and later on 21 points.

“I think with a little bit of scoreboard pressure things could have been different, and will be different, therefore there’s a lot execution work necessary in our game – I’m really excited to get going Monday.”

Where Italy supporters were disappointed it was a different story for Wales, with plenty of highlights from Justin Tipuric’s man of the match, Adams confirming once again he’s top of the range and Biggar delivering one of the best passes in the Championship’s history.

Smith paid tribute to his first-round opponent but says good things are on the way after Italy’s U20s 17-7 win over Wales on Friday.

“Wales are a top side and it’s a pity that we had our first start in this way against them,” he added. “But then again I would rather lose against the best as we did than maybe just lose against another team that is not in the same form as them.

“There’s a special bond and a very special character if you look at them.

“I believe that what I know from Italian rugby and what I think is coming – we’ve heard about the U20s beating Wales last night, and the years before – there’s a good group coming through.

“Obviously in Italy in the last six years they’ve had to make certain changes in the way they recruit and the way they go about their business, I think those platforms are there.”