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RugbySport

Italy coach Crowley happy with win but admits improvements needed

rugby world cup 2023 pool a italy v namibia
Italy's Manuel Zuliani celebrates scoring their sixth try with Lorenzo Cannone

Italy will need a big improvement going into their second pool game at the Rugby World Cup as coach Kieran Crowley bemoaned his side’s inaccuracy in their opening 52-8 victory over minnows Namibia at a sweltering Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday.

The scoreline may be one-sided but Italy only pulled away in the closing stages and for the most part looked below par as they knocked balls on, threw wild passes and allowed Namibia to turn over plenty of possession.

“If you had given me 50 points before the game I would have grabbed them,” Crowley told reporters. “But we turned over about 22 balls and you can’t afford to do that. It was pretty hot out there and the boys are pretty gassed, so we’ll take it and we’ll move on.

“They shut us down in the first half – we’ve got to be better than we were in that area. There’s a whole lot (that must improve).”

Italy have a long wait until their second game against Uruguay in Nice on Sept. 20, and Crowley said he would not change their plans.

“We’ll prepare exactly the same,” he said. “They’re (Uruguay) pretty structured and pretty physical.”

Namibia, who trailed 17-8 at halftime, fought hard but conceded three tries in the final six minutes. Their wait for a first ever World Cup win now stands at a record 23 matches.

“I’m really proud of the boys. They never gave up. They hung in there. The Italians are good at the set-piece. They are a good side,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said.

“Towards the end it ballooned out a bit, but that is the conditioning when you are up against a tier-one country. When we got into their 22 we should have converted our opportunities into points.

“But against set-piece, if you can’t stop their mauls you’re in trouble. The collisions were big. They have superb athletes and after 50 minutes they just broke loose.”

Namibia have a daunting task in their second pool game against a New Zealand team looking to bounce back from their opening 27-13 loss to hosts France. That game is on Friday in Toulouse.

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