Whatever you do, don’t sleep it out on Sunday morning – the opening exchanges of Ireland’s head to head with Italy will be every bit as intense as tonight’s bitter contest between Samoa and South Africa.
I went to the Italy press conference in preference to the Ireland one earlier today, not sure what to expect from Nick Mallett (above left) who is on his way out as soon as Italy are finished here. He has always some across as utterly self-assured, whether it was in his days with the Springboks, or with Stade Francais who he guided to two Top 14 titles.
When he went to Italy four years ago you expected him to lose the plot in search of a pair of halfbacks, a journey which has warped the heads of every coach in that job since the halcyon days of Troncon and Dominguez.
Mallett has stuck with it, lurching between lashing them out of it for their shortcomings and defending them to the hilt against perceived injustices.
Today he was close to tears as he described nearing the end.
“History will tell only when you’ve been away for a while if you’ve been a successful coach or not but in terms of the relationship I have with the team and the relationship I have with the staff, it’s been a great four years,” he said. “And I’ve enjoyed the last two years probably as much as I’ve enjoyed coaching any team.”
One more line and the waterworks would have started, and there was no question of this being manufactured. So what do you think it will be like in the Italy changing room on Sunday?
I thought they got sidetracked by the US during the week and the red mist clouded the judgement of Sergio Parisse who wanted to scrummage them to death when it wasn’t necessary.
The players have huge regard for Mallett and will want to give him at least one more game in the job. Their only chance will be to keep a lid on their emotions in what will be a deafening environment in the new Otago Stadium. Keeping them on track will be as tough a gig as Mallett has faced in four years in charge.
(pic courtesy of Jane Dawber, Otago Daily Times)