After Wales almost stumbled against France in their opening 6 Nations match, Italy had a slim chance of an upset here. Italy v Wales at the Stadio Olimpico should have served as a turning point for Conor O’Shea’s men, as they learned from their mistakes against Scotland and improved. But as we saw during this 26-15 loss, many of the same issues returned to haunt the Azzurri. Here are the game management problems Italy urgently need to fix.

Italy v Wales | Kicking the ball away after earning a turnover

This is not a technical high-level problem, it’s just a composure problem. After defending so well for long periods, the Italians repeatedly kicked the ball away in this game. Let’s look at an example.

This takes place after 9 phases of hard Italian defence. Wales are frustrated into a speculative kick.

A waste of possession
A waste of possession

With this return kick, Italy hand the ball straight back to a team that had just attacked them for almost double-digit phases. It’s like they enjoy the punishment.

In this next example, Italy gain another turnover and go on the attack. With an entire team behind him and all the momentum on his side, Campagnaro puts in a kick that gives Wales possession once again.

Campagnaro's kick gives Wales the ball
Campagnaro’s kick gives Wales the ball

This is such great work from the forwards, but the ball is given away too cheaply in this part of the field.

This next example of giving the ball away cheaply isn’t a kick, but a fumble. Campagnaro goes into contact rugby league style, and the ball is ripped away by Wales.

A rugby league style carry in the 6 Nations
A rugby league style carry in the 6 Nations

These may seem small in isolation, but each of these moments could have led to something bigger. Italy need every opportunity they can get to attack at this level.

In our last article on Italy we discussed their passive attack. You can read about that below.

Scotland v Italy Tactics | Why Italy Can’t Keep Up In The 6 Nations

In this article we will look at their defence, and its mixed outlook moving forward.

Italy v Wales | How Italy’s defence is gaining ground – but still needs work

As we mentioned earlier, Italy were frustrating Wales for multiple phases with their organised defence. The fact that Italy stayed within 2 points of Wales until the 54th minute speaks volumes of their improvements in this area. However, they are still prone to mistakes related to mental composure.

Here is one such mistake that leads to a Welsh try. Watch the positioning of Hayward, the Italian 15.

Hayward has to make a tough decision
Hayward has to make a tough decision

To be fair, Hayward is faced with a tough two-on-one situation. He makes the decision to tackle Williams but doesn’t fully commit. Williams just shrugs him off and continues his run.

Hayward is shrugged off by Williams
Hayward is shrugged off by Williams

These pressure decisions tie into general game management as well. Italy are slightly unsure of themselves at times, but this could come with experience.

A final positive for Italy in this game was a well-engineered strike move that tore Wales apart fair and square.

Italy v Wales | A positive strike move to end on

In the 75th minute, Italy scored with a play worthy of a mention here. Here’s how they pulled it off.

Italy compress the Welsh defence
Italy compress the Welsh defence

In the above clip Italy use a pod with a hard runner on the outside. This achieves it’s goal of holding up the Welsh defence, and some quick passing leaves Allan in a small pocket of space. This is far superior to the lacklustre dummy runners we witnessed last week.

Allan now has the space to use his skills.

Wales are now outnumbered, and Allan can work his magic
Wales are now outnumbered, and Allan can work his magic

This try is possible because both Young and Anscombe rush out of the line for Wales to try and cut off the pass. They realised they were in trouble, but by that time it was too late. An excellent end to the game from Italy.

The 1014 Rugby reviewed Italy’s performance in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

Can Italy stop making game management mistakes, or have these errors been hard-wired into the players from a young age? Can they continue improving defensively? Let us know down below.

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