Rugby: All change for Italy after Scotland loss

By Allan Kelly

ST ETIENNE - It will be all change at the helm for Italy following the heartbreak of their 16-18 World Cup loss to Scotland here on Saturday night.

Victory would have taken the Azzurri into the quarter-finals of rugby's premier competition for the first time and provided a huge boost for a sport that is dwarfed at home by football.

And it would have extended the international careers of coach Pierre Berbizier and scrum-half Alessandro Troncon, both of whom had already announced they would stand down at the end of the World Cup.

Troncon, who joined an elite group of players to have won 100 caps during the tournament, was in tears at the final whistle as his team-mates hoisted him onto their shoulders for a final salute to the Italian fans.

But he said that at 34, it was the correct time for him to call it a day.

"Finally the end has come for me, and in every way and it's been a wonderful end to my career and it was a wonderful opportunity for my career.

"The best was simply to play rugby. It's a wonderful feeling to play, and a wonderful experience, it's also very difficult.

"I'm extremely happy that I have played rugby at a high level all this time and I can't think of a bad moment."

Frenchman Berbizier took over the Italian coaching job in April 2005 after Kiwi John Kirwan was sacked and his time in charge has seen the side improve markedly with for the first time two wins in this year's Six Nations, away to Scotland and at home to Wales.

But he failed to nail down what would have been an historic breakthrough for the Azzurri against Scotland and Italy's overall World Cup performances have been dismal.

"We had a problem with discipline," was his assessment of Saturday night's game.

"It was discipline that we lacked and the Scots took advantage of that. They were very organised and they played very well."

"But I have had two wonderful years. I would like to thank Italian rugby for having allowed me to work with the national team. Now I wish them very well. It's been an amazing experience for me."

Berbizier is to move back to his club coaching job in France.

Italy will now look to build on the platform they have laid down this year with a view to finally cracking the last eight in the World Cup in four years' time and there is still belief in the squad that this can be done.

Said centre Gonzalo Canale: "Pierre Berbizier's tenure, which was very positive, is over. Now we start to work with a new coach and we have the potential that we need and players of great quality. Surely, the next World Cup will be much better for us."

Lock and skipper Marco Bortolami who missed the Scotland game through injury agreed saying: "We have improved a lot but it was not enough.

"We've learned a lot. Ours is a team of young players and we will reach high levels in the future."

- AFP

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