Italy get a 'slap in the face' before England clash
WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN: Experienced Italy lock Dean Budd said facing England on Friday in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up Test will be a massive ask after last week’s “slap in the face” defeat to France.
Kiwi-born Budd, 33, came off the bench to win his 22nd Test as the Azzurri suffered a 19-47 defeat to les Bleus on Friday after losing to Ireland and thrashing Russia earlier in August.
“We’ll take it as a real slap in the face and a wake-up call and if we do really want to compete we have another month or so to pull our finger out,” Budd told AFP.
“I honestly think they [England] are World Cup contenders, as proper winners. So it’s a massive ask for us after that performance, we have to bounce back.
“We go out every week to win but we have to face the reality that they’re real potential World Cup winners and at least finalists,” he added.
Italy, who have never reached a World Cup quarterfinal, the only Six Nations side to have failed to do so, will play reigning world champions New Zealand, former winners South Africa after meeting Namibia and Canada in their pool at the tournament.
“We’re not going there just to compete and make up numbers. If we want to get out of our group we have to topple a giant,” Budd said.
“If we put that performance in against Canada or Namibia we’d be scared about the result, so it’s best to have the wake-up calls before the games that mean something,” he added.
Loose forward Jake Polledri, who was born in Bristol and plays for English side Gloucester could line up against club teammate Willi Heinz.
“The emotion between the two nations is going to be big,” he told AFP.
“I’ll tell him to watch out and keep an eye on his back. We get on well.
“I wish him all the best and I’ll send him a message and I look forward to seeing him on the pitch,” he added.
Polledri, 23, said the Azzurri can’t afford a repeat performance six days on from the thumping in the French capital against a country they have never beaten.
“We need to come out with some positives from the England game,” he said.
“It’s all about building momentum for the World Cup, we don’t really want to be going into the World Cup with two performances like that.”