By Ben Hart in Treviso
Italy head coach Massimo Brunello says he feels his players’ pain after they missed out on the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series final following defeat to Wales.
A late penalty from Joe Hawkins sent Wales through to the showpiece at Italy’s expense, and Brunello added that the manner of the 23-20 defeat was harsh on his team.
His squad will have to recover from their disappointment quickly, as they play England on Finals Day in a play-off for third in the tournament on Tuesday.
“I’m disappointed not for the result but for the players because they deserve something more,” said Brunello. “We were so close, but that’s how rugby is, it happens.
“I’m not disappointed for the performance of the team but just for their disappointment.”
Italy were on top for large periods throughout a tense encounter, but only had a single Federico Cuminetti try to show for their best spell, which came midway through the second half.
But rather than lamenting those missed chances in Wales’ 22, Brunello said Italy’s poor execution of their exit strategy from kick off was a key factor in their defeat.
“We suffered a lot from the restart kicks, especially in the first half,” he explained.
“On four occasions in the first half Wales scored points from that situation, so that was the weak point of the game.”
Turning his attention to England, Brunello has downplayed the significance of their last meeting with Alan Dickens’ side.
Nicolo Teneggi kicked the only points of the game as Italy beat England 6-0 in the Six Nations Under-20s, and the pair will again meet at the Stadio di Monigo in the Championship’s penultimate fixture.
“England won’t be the same team that we faced in the Six Nations Under-20s here in Treviso,” he insisted.
“They are a superpower. But we deserve to end a beautiful season in the most beautiful way, so we’ll try and win against England.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s first try scorer, full-back Lorenzo Pani, said he was proud of the team’s performance despite the result.
“I’m happy for my match but for me the most important thing is the team,” he said.
“I’m sad about that but I’m proud of the guys because we gave everything on the field, so we have to be proud of the game.”
Pani believes that Italy fell short in two areas they are usually strong in - the kick battle and the set-piece.
For the first time in the Summer Series, not one of Italy’s forwards were on the scoresheet, with prime ball-carrier, captain and No.8 Ross Vintcent sorely missed through injury.
“I think we can kick more during the game because we have a good foot,” said Pani.
“But our strong points are our scrum, the scrum worked not on our standards today because of the falls and penalties we could have avoided.”
Like his coach, Pani believes that the current England side are a different proposition to the team Italy faced in February.
But he is confident there will be no hangover from Italy’s late heartbreak in Treviso.
“We want to finish very well,” he said.
“The Six Nations win is past, now we have to think to this match. We’re ready and will give everything on the field.”
The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg