Six Nations - Parisse questions French desire

Sat, 12 Mar 20:00:00 2011

Italy captain Sergio Parisse questioned the French fighting spirit after his side rallied to record their first Six Nations victory over last year's grand slam champions.

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The Italians trailed France 18-6 midway through the second half before bouncing back to win 22-21 with Mirco Bergamasco kicking 17 points in one of the biggest upsets ever in the tournament.

"We didn't expect to beat France, we thought Ireland and Wales would be more winnable, but today we really wanted it," said captain Sergio Parisse, one of eight of the Azzurri starting 15 who play their club rugby in France.

"France are definitely stronger than us technically but we've given them way too much respect in the past and lost by big scores.

"When you get up before the French player after a hard tackle, it shows you are up for it. When you see French players look at the ground near the end, it gives you strength."

Italy coach Nick Mallett agreed the Azzurri had won the head game.

"We kept in touch but then the first 20 minutes of the second half were our worst period," he said. "After we scored the try, though, I could see the French were disunited, they were playing as individuals. Rugby is a bizarre game. When it gets close, it's all in the head."

The South African coach, who made seven changes after the loss to Wales two weeks ago, praised his players for giving more than they had ever done before.

"I think our three games at home were maybe the best three we've ever played in the Six Nations," he said. "If we were unlucky in the first two home games, we probably had a bit of fortune today."

France coach Marc Lievremont said his players had underperformed and consequently lost the battle.

"They deserve it. I knew it would happen one day but I hoped it would be another time," he said. "Even at 18-6 I didn't feel safe, I would have preferred to win despite everything, I'd have preferred a sad win rather than a sad defeat.

"I've always been built on the desire to fight, I haven't spoken with the players, there's very few who played as I expected them to."

Lievremont, whose selections have been regularly questioned, said he no plans to resign after consecutive championships defeats.

"It's tough to take, quitting doesn't even enter my vocabulary even if I still have doubts," he said.

"Tomorrow is another day, we'll have to make choices, we'll have to fight but I'm not on the pitch so that principally is for the players."

Parisse, who along with his team mates performed a lap of honour amid prolonged celebrations at the final whistle, paid tribute to the Italian support and to his coach.

"It's a dream to defeat France in front of our fans and we have to thank Nick who has been criticised so much recently," he said before turning to next week's final championship match against Scotland.

"Scotland will be very different but we are mentally prepared and if we beat them there it will truly be something special," Parisse said.

Reuters

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