Aguilar cites Portugal improvement
September 19, 2007
Antonio Aguilar believes Portugal's experiences in their first two games in the World Cup have put them in good shape ahead of the Pool C clash against Italy in Paris tonight.
The Iberian amateurs have shipped 164 points in their matches against Scotland and New Zealand, and are expected to be cannon fodder for the Italians at the Parc des Princes.
But Aguilar, who will start on the wing for the Portuguese tonight, reckons his team are now in a better position to cause the Azzurri a few problems.
``In the last two matches, we haven't cared about the final result,'' he said.
``First we want to play good rugby, and then we can talk about results.
``I think that now with two matches in the bag, we will be a hard opponent for Italy.''
Italy beat the Portuguese 83-0 the last time the two teams met, in a World Cup qualifier in L'Aquila in October 2006.
But Portugal flanker Joao Uva does not envisage a repeat scoreline tonight, adding: ``That game was a few months ago and our team has changed a lot since.
``We have another mentality and another attitude.''
Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini believes the World Cup brings the best out of minnows like Portugal.
``We've seen a lot of teams who, before the World Cup, weren't very well prepared, like Georgia or Namibia,'' said the front-row forward.
``But then when they come here, they are ready for the challenge.
``Every match is different in the World Cup. It's hard to think that our match against Portugal could be similar to the one in which we beat them 83-0 in the qualifiers.''
Ghiraldini is one of eight changes to the Italy team compared to the one that started the 24-18 victory over Romania last week.
It will be a special night for one of the players recalled, scrum-half Alessandro Troncon, who will earn his 100th Test cap.
He is reunited with former Leeds utility man Roland de Marigny at fly-half while elsewhere behind the scrum, only full-back David Bortolussi and centre Gonzalo Canale are spared the drop.
The survivors in the pack are experienced quintet Andrea Lo Cicero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Marco Bortolami, Mauro Bergamasco and Sergio Parisse.
Italy will be looking for a confidence-boosting result ahead of their final group game, a probable qualification decider against Scotland on September 29.
After seeing his team thrashed 76-14 by New Zealand in their opening game, Azzurri coach Pierre Berbizier saw some encouraging signs against the Romanians and wants his players to push on from there.
``I've seen a good reaction in Marseille during the first few minutes of our match against Romania,'' said the former France player and coach.
``We started playing really well and we showed the reaction that I want. Now we have to keep up that level we showed in the early stages of the match against Romania.
``We will continue to work on that. A match in this competition requires a huge mental preparation and we expect to develop that aspect in the best possible way.''
Portugal coach Tomaz Morais has been forced to ring the changes, retaining just six players from the New Zealand game.