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Smith: Positive signs but still room for improvement

Smith: Positive signs but still room for improvement

Smith: Positive signs but still room for improvement

Franco Smith believes Italy are heading in the right direction but voiced his frustrations after seeing his side allow Scotland to come from behind to win 28-17 in their Autumn Nations Cup opener.

Despite going into the match as underdogs, the Azzurri dominated much of the contest in Florence, and took an 11-7 lead into half time after an impressive Matteo Minozzi score, and six points from the boot of Paolo Garbisi, cancelled out Duhan van der Merwe’s try.

That lead grew again as Garbisi added to his tally, and although the Benetton fly-half would kick three further points, the visitors took home the spoils thanks to second-half tries from Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and George Turner.

Though Italy proved they can mix it with a side who beat 2019 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales in their previous match, Smith is clear they must learn to fight until the final whistle in order to earn points on the board.

“I am happy with the long-term prospects of the side – the disappointment comes from the result,” the 48-year-old said. “We do well up to a certain point, but then we lose confidence when something goes wrong.

“We have made great steps forward and we are growing, but there is a lot to learn from the last 20 minutes of this match.

“All in all, we lost in our 22. When they entered that area, they came out with points and at this level that’s not good enough.

“We know we will always face teams ahead of us in the rankings and it’s up to us to improve further.”

Captain Luca Bigi played 46 minutes at hooker, and echoed his coach’s belief that Italy are constantly improving but need to find the next level to end a losing run that stretches back to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

A home clash against Fiji lies in store next for Italy, before their final Group B match away to France and a placing match to determine their overall Autumn Nations Cup position.

The Zebre star added: “We knew how strong Scotland’s scrum was and we focused on that. It was a positive match for the maul defence and we have shown signs of improvement.

“Now, however, we have to repeat this performance for the entire duration of the match. Consistency at this level for 80 minutes is crucial. The step forward has been made, but we cannot be happy.”

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