Monday 14 October 2019

Italy coach Conor O'Shea laments playing surface as Italy thrash Canada

Italy 48 Canada 7

Italy players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Issei Kato
Italy players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Issei Kato

Jonathan Bradley

ITALY coach Conor O'Shea admitted the Hakatanomori Stadium surface made it difficult at scrum time in his side's 48-7 World Cup victory over Canada but added that there was no further concern for player safety.

Ireland will play Samoa at the same venue on October 12 and the pitch that usually plays host to football club Avispa Fukuoka in the Japanese second tier looked to have cut up badly during the contest.

The former Ireland full-back praised the general quality of the facilities in Japan but acknowledged the set-piece was affected in his side's second game win of the tournament.

"The pitches have been amazing," he said. "I think we knew yesterday, and Nigel (Owens, the referee) addressed it before the game, it happens in a lot of places, that scrums were going to be an issue.

"Our training pitch has been amazing, everything about it, but you could feel it in the bounce of the ball last night (at captain's run) and you could tell that it was going to make things difficult.

"We knew there were going to be some issues but the only big one was the scrums."

Canadian captain Tyler Ardron agreed that it was only an issue in the one particular area of the game.

"I didn't think much of it or I wouldn't have been in the game," said the former Osprey. "You could see, at the scrum, looking from the back up at the front-rows, the turf just went.

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"It's unfortunate but it's still a decent turf I've played on worse."

Having now beaten both Namibia and Canada to begin their campaign, Italy have taken a maximum of ten points in their pool, unfortunately for the Azzurri, their next two games are against South Africa and then the All Blacks.

Italy started the game at breakneck pace, leading 17-0 after only 13 minutes and, while Canada could have bridged the gap somewhat if not for an array of handling errors in promising positions, their superiority was clear throughout.

Having made wholesale changes to the side that beat Nambia only on Sunday, including handing 36-year-old skipper Sergio Parisse a breather, Italy's back-row were in impressive form with flanker Jake Polledri earning man of the match honours.

Les Rouges featured Dungannon native Peter Nelson at out-half, the former Ulster player having made his debut during the summer after qualifying through his Toronto-born grandmother.

Despite getting steamrollered for Italy's first try, he was impressive from there on, offering a real variety in his kicking game and creating Canada's sole try with a fine linebreak late on.

"He grew as the game went on," said his coach Kingsley Jones. "He's come into a new group of players, a new environment.

"He's a really good footballer, he created the last try. What was pleasing was he took the game by the scruff of the neck.

"He's not accomplished in that position at this level yet but he needs more time.

"I thought he was excellent in the team's preparation during the week.

"Pete really fronted and we're really pleased with the way he's progressing."

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