The Italians know what to expect from France
OPINION: Italy has “reset and are focusing on France” after their 17-96 drubbing by New Zealand which was a “freak game”, Italian wing Paolo Odogwu said on Tuesday.
Despite the thrashing the Italians still entertains hopes of reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time though they will have to beat hosts France in their final Pool A match in Lyon on Friday to do so.
Odogwu, 26, said unlike the All Blacks, who they play rarely, they know France well from the Six Nations even though their last win, one of only three in 47 meetings, over the French dates back to 2013.
“We are a bit more familiar with their style so I think it’s easier for us to prepare for that kind of game,” said the England-born speedster.
“We know what to expect, we know what they are going to come with and we know how we are going to try and counteract that.”
Odogwu insisted the Italy who looked like they were rabbits trapped in the headlights when they played New Zealand is alien to the side that head coach Kieran Crowley has built.
“Our whole mindset is about being fearless when we play, whether that’s in attack or defence,” said Odogwu.
“We might have respected them a bit too much to the point we were just sitting off and so coming into this week we need to go 100 per cent in everything and try and dominate everything.”
Andrea Moretti, Italy’s scrum coach, said any team can have an off day as the Italians did.
“I think it’s about embracing and accepting we had a bad game,” said Moretti.
“In the 2015 quarterfinal, they lost 13-62 against the All Blacks – and this is France.
“The biggest challenge that we have to address is that, under pressure, to take our chances.”
Odogwu is confident, though, that whatever happens on Friday and even with the much admired Crowley leaving after the tournament – Argentinian Gonzalo Quesada replaces him – the future is bright for Italian rugby.
“I think if you look at our team right now, the core heart of the squad are so young, they are still going to be around in four years time,” he said.
“You look at the under-20s and all of those players doing so well and you have them coming through.
“So when we start to put all of that together and the younger players get to 20, 30, 40 caps everyone is going to get better and better and we will have that solid team.”