'We have a better front row than Ireland and we will prove it,' roars Italy coach Nick Mallett
Italy head coach Nick Mallett has laid down the gauntlet ahead of his side's must-win Rugby World Cup match against Ireland on Sunday.
Mallett lauded the scrummaging performance of his forwards in the 27-10 win over the United States and said Ireland would have to match Italy at Otago Stadium in the set pieces to emerge victorious.
"We have a better front row than Ireland and we're going to try to prove that in Dunedin," he said.
That was a big statement from Mallett on the back of Ireland's dominant scrummaging display in their win over Australia, but he made no apologies for Italy playing to their strengths.
"No one criticises the All Blacks for attacking with their backs. They have some of the most skilful backs in the world. Clearly, we had a dominant scrum against the USA and it would have been ridiculous not to use the strength of our forwards," he said.
"I'm sorry for the spectators if it was not entertaining to watch but we have a very good front row. We certainly deserved the penalty try - if not a few more, quite frankly."
Mallett said it took longer than he had hoped for Italy to score their four tries to gain the bonus point and he would have liked to have substituted some of his key players - including scrum anchor Martin Castrogioavanni - earlier in the game.
"We had opportunities and it was frustrating that it took us 25 minutes instead of 10 minutes to get that fourth try," he said.
Italy are now in Dunedin, where they have just four days to prepare for the game which will define their tournament.
Mallett said the players were tired and sore but he was not aware of any significant injuries.
"Ireland are a side that really played so well against Australia. They beat the Australians physically," he said.
Italian captain Sergio Parisse said he and his players were relieved to get five points for the win over the US.
"They showed a lot of physicality in all their matches. We expected a hard physical game and we got it. Ireland had to work hard to beat USA (22-10) too," he said.
"We don't have a lot of time to prepare for the game against Ireland but we know what is at stake. All the boys are very tired but now we have to recover and get in the right frame of mind for Ireland."