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Nonsense Selection Costs Italy Dear
2 February 2009, 3:35 pm
By Chris Byne
The selection of a back-row foward in the pivotal scrum-half position cost Italy dear in the first half of their opening RBS Six Nations game against England at Twickenham today.
For some inexplicable reason Nick Mallett chose Mauro Bergamasco for the number nine slot and three mistakes by the Stade Francais back-rower led to three English tries - from Andy Goode, Harry Ellis and Riki Flutey - and a 19-0 lead for Steve Bortwick's side.

To make matters worse for the Italians they lost their out-half Andrea Marcato to injury ten minutes before half-time although his replacement Australian Luke McClean opened his side's account with a penalty just after he came on.

That score was cancelled out by an Andy Goode penalty moments later but McLean landed his second successful effort in response and in injury time saw another effort come back off an upright with England going in 22-6 at half-time but reduced to 14 after James Haskell had been yellow carded just before the break.

Not surprisingly, Bergamasco did not appear for the second half, his place at the base of the scrum now taken by Giulio Toniolatti which of course meant that while Italy now had a recognised if not recognisable scrum-half they also had one of their most influential players sitting in the stand.

And for the opening 15 minutes of the second half Italy gave the hosts enough bother to highlight the nonsense of that original selection. The Italians took the game to the English effect, could have put Mauro's brother Mirco in for a try but then conceded the error that allowed Ellis race clear for his second try that Andy Goode converted.

The Italians should have had a seven pointer in the 61st minute when flanker Alessandro Zanni blocked down an attempted Delon Armitage clearance only to then knock-on with the line at his mercy and then England were reduced to 14 again, this time replacement Shane Geraghty yellow-carded for tackling McLean in the air having been on the field for a little over two minutes.

The Italians continued to play the more inventive rugby and were rewarded in the 71st minute with a try wide on the right from Mirco Begamasco but England kept the sting in the tail for Mark Cueto to score a late try (78th min) that Goode converted for a flattering 36-11 victory.

All in all from an English point of view, it was fairly dire stuff and bookies who may be holding precious cash on England winning the championship needn't look to lay it off.

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