Italy coach Jacques Brunel accused his players of taking to the field “with low physicality” as they slumped to their heaviest-ever defeat against Scotland, 48-7, in their penultimate World Cup warm-up match at Murrayfield on Saturday.
An ashen-faced Brunel was at a loss to explain how his side played so badly on a ground where they beat the Scots 22-19 in last season’s Six Nations Championship.
But the Frenchman promised to correct the worrying deficiencies as the Azzurri prepare to face Wales in Cardiff on September 5, a fortnight ahead of their World Cup opener against France at Twickenham.
The heavy defeat surpassed a 47-15 loss in a 2003 World Cup warm up at Murrayfield as Italy’s record reverse against Scotland.
It came just seven days after they had been beaten just 16-12 by Vern Cotter’s side on home ground in Turin and Brunel said: “I really don’t understand what happened today (Saturday). You should probably ask the players because today they joined the field with low physicality.
“We performed pretty well one week ago and today we gave away three interception tries and had a huge lack of possession. This is what scares me the most.
“I don’t understand how we can change so much, one week to the other,” he added. “One week ago we built up long playing sequences and today we could barely keep the ball for two.”
Asked whether the performance could be dismissed as a just a bad day at the office or a sign of deeper problems, Brunel replied: “I have no doubt we will sort out the issues we saw today. I think it’s been a very bad day.
“We will need to go into the next week with a positive approach, otherwise the Rugby World Cup will be tough. The first goal for us will be getting our confidence back.”
Leonardo Ghiraldini, Italy’s captain in the absence of Sergio Parisse, was equally at a loss to explain an abject display in which the visitors shipped six tries and managed just one of their own, courtesy of centre Michele Campagnaro.
“It’s difficult to understand because we had the same approach as last week,” said the Leicester hooker.
“We gave away too many penalties from the scrum in the first-half, something we cannot accept.”
– Russell class –
Scotland controlled the match from the start in front of a record crowd for a World Cup warm-up at Murrayfield of 43,831.
Wings Sean Lamont and Tim Visser each scored two tries, the others coming from flanker John Barclay, who was making his first international start for two years, and centre Mark Bennett.
However, Scotland coach Cotter was reluctant to shower praise on his side, saying: “Three tries came from interceptions, so we’ll have to face the reality on that. We weren’t particularly accurate at times.
“I’m not entirely happy with everything. We’re improving but there’s certainly a lot more to be done. We need to step it up again,” added the New Zealander, due to name his World Cup squad on Tuesday.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw –- who kicked two conversions and four penalties –- was more fulsome in his praise.
“We’re delighted that we put them under pressure for such long periods of the game,” said the Gloucester scrum-half.
Laidlaw singled out his half-back partner, Finn Russell, who had an outstanding game orchestrating Scotland’s attack with perception and precision.
“Finn’s a wonderful talent,” said Laidlaw. “I thought he had a wonderful performance today. Hopefully that can continue next week and into the World Cup.”
Scotland play their final warm-up match against France in Paris next Saturday and open their World Cup campaign against Japan at Kingsholm in Gloucester on September 23. – Agence France-Presse