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Wallabies great slams 'poor coaching' after first ever loss to Italy

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Wallabies great Drew Mitchell doesn’t believe Australia were “in a position to make 12 changes” to their starting XV before playing Italy.

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Just a week on from their heartbreaking one-point loss to World No. 2 France in Paris, a new-look Wallabies side took the field in Florence to face a passionate Azzurri outfit.

Coach Dave Rennie had made a dozen changes to the side that had fought valiantly against Les Bleus, including a forced update after lock Nick Frost was ruled out with an injury and illness.

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Australia had won all of the previous 18 Test matches between the two nations, dating back to their first clash in 1983.

But Dave Rennie’s Wallabies were unable to avoid some unwanted history, as a clinical Italian side held on for a hard-fought 28-27 win at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Debutant Ben Donaldson had a chance to win the Test with a conversion after the siren, but pushed his attempt at goal wide right.

Speaking on Stan Sport after the Test, former international winger Mitchell slammed the Wallabies’ “poor coaching” as he briefly discussed the mass changes the team had made.

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“It goes back to the selections. 12 changes subconsciously gives you the mindset that you’re expected to win this,” Mitchell said.

“That’s poor coaching. Seventh in the world, you’re not in a position to make 12 changes.”

While both teams traded penalty goals early on, the home side raced out to a commanding lead after Wallabies scrum-half Jake Gordon was sent to the sin bin.

Pierre Bruno and Ange Capuozzo both scored tries during Gordon’s 10-minutes on the sideline, as the Azzurri raced out to a commanding 17-3 lead mid-way through the first half.

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While Australia fought their way back into the contest, even making it a two-point game at one stage, they never took the lead.

Discipline was once again the Wallabies’ Achilles heel, as they became the most penalised tier-one side in the international game – conceding 16 penalties to Italy’s nine.

Former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison said that while discipline was an issue for Australia, he agreed that the “risk in rotation” was a factor as well.

“They haven’t underestimated, what they’ve done is not met the passion that the Italians bring to the area with skill execution,” Harrison said on Stan Sport.

“Discipline isn’t just in terms of giving away penalties and being offside; discipline to stay in your defensive formation; discipline to attack the line.

“No one walks into a Test arena without absolute intent to meet the opponent with everything you’ve got. The difficulty for the Wallabies was the 12 of those players haven’t played much Test rugby together.

“They weren’t good at finding a solution together under extreme pressure because they’ve neither been winning a Test together or losing one together. That was the risk in rotation we saw.”

Former Wallabies vice-captain Morgan Turinui still believed the Wallabies would beat Italy, even after they made mass changes to their starting side.

The new-look Wallabies side included Will Skelton in the second row and debutant Mark Nawaqanitawase on the right wing, but Australia were still the favourites going into the Test.

“I look at the team list and I think that’s a team that should have won the game,” Turinui said.

“You can talk about the amount of time they’ve spent together, played together, the combinations.

“I look at the talent in that team I think some of the actual specific actions of individuals on the team have cost them the game. I can understand that the changes and all those sorts of things add influence on those performances.”

The Wallabies began their five-match spring tour with a thrilling one-point win over Scotland at Murrayfield, before losing to France last week.

That means the men in gold have now played in three consecutive Test matches which have been decided, win or lose, by just one point.

As they look to bounce back and avoid a third-straight loss, the Wallabies are set to face World No. 1 Ireland in Dublin next week, before playing Wales in Cardiff to end their season.

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