Ireland’s Australian defence coach Les Kiss empathises with the decision of Italy coach Nick Mallett to throw down the gauntlet to Ireland at the scrum.
Mallett, who could be overseeing his final match as Italy boss in Sunday’s critical Pool C showdown at Otago Stadium, has warned the Irish to expect a torrid encounter in the set piece.
“Ireland dominated Australia physically but we know perfectly well that we’ve got a better front row than them, and we’re going to go in there to prove that on Sunday,” said Mallett.
The scrum is a source of pride to Italian rugby, but Ireland have improved dramatically in this department since the emergence of tighthead Mike Ross over the past 12 months.
It proves to be a fascinating contest, but defence coach Kiss insists there are many strings to his side’s bow.
“Coaches are always going to talk up what’s good for them,” said the Australian.
“There’s no doubt it, no mystery behind it – they’ve got a good scrum. But we’ll back our guys as well, there’s no doubt there.
“The scrum is one part of the game, it’s very important and it’s going to play its part at some stage.
“But we’ve got other parts in our game that we’ll bring as well.
:: Massive battle
“There’s a lot of discussion that will be around the scrum and it’s no surprise Mallett is going to talk that up. But the scrum is just one part of it.”
Kiss is refusing to linger on the last-gasp 13-11 victory over Italy in the RBS 6 Nations in February, a result that has fuelled Azzurri hopes of springing an upset in Dunedin.
“We won the game,” said Kiss.
Italy secured a try-scoring bonus point in their 27-10 triumph over the United States on Tuesday to set up the shootout for a place in the quarter-finals.
“You’ve just got to give credit to the way the USA went about their business and they were the same with us. They were physical and up for the battle,” he said.
“The end result was Italy won the game with four tries and that will always stand, so it’s history now.
“The big thing for us is we’ve done our analysis on it, we know this is a massive battle and that there’s a lot at stake.
“It’s winner-takes-all and that’s what it’s about this weekend.”