Italian confidence remains high
Buoyed up by their historic Six Nations victory over Scotland a fortnight ago, Italy cannot wait to get their hands on Wales in Cardiff this weekend, according to coach Brad Johnstone.
Johnstone claims that team morale is still high after their resounding 34-20 debut win over the Scots, although the New Zealander expects another tough battle in the middle at the Millennium Stadium.
He believes that Italy have turned the corner after a disastrous 1999 saw them get hammered throughout their tour of South Africa and then humiliated at the World Cup. But after beating the winners of the last Five Nations Championship, Johnstone said: "Mentally, the effect has obviously been very positive. The boys enjoyed the victory - it's been a long time between drinks for them and they're looking forward to the next game."
The former All Black has had to re-shuffle his squad after losing flanker and former skipper Massimo Giovanelli to eye surgery, centre Manuel Dallan with a shoulder injury and prop Giampiero De Carli, who scored Italy's try against Scotland, for family reasons.
The trio have been replaced by Livorno's Andrea De Rossi, Roma's Giovanni Raineri and Alessandro Moreno of French club Agen.
However, there are no fitness doubts over Diego Dominguez, the fly half who kicked 29 of Italy's points against the Scots. Italy's Argentinian-born 'Superboot' may well hold the key to their next match if, as Johnstone suspects, it pans out the same way as in Rome. "I think Wales will want to play a similar type of game because they've picked a pack of big, strong forwards," he said.
Ruling out the chances of a running/passing game, he said: "You can only move the ball wide and keep playing wide if the opposition allow you, or if you've got so much control of the opposition you can do it. And I don't think it's going to be particularly wide."
"I think the challenge is to try and re-motivate these players and get their feet back on the ground, to get them as hungry again as they were before the Scottish game. They gained confidence from the victory, they showed they were better players than many people gave them credit for. But we have to look at how we can improve on our game against Scotland," said the former Fiji coach
"There were many aspects of our game that I wasn't 100 percent happy with and there's of lot of work to be done. The one thing that I felt they did do well throughout was the pressure and the defence, going forward and cutting down the options of the Scots. The weakness I was very disappointed about was that we allowed the Scots to score two tries in the last five minutes of each half. In other words, we took the pressure off in the dying moments of both halves."