SIX NATIONS 2009 - ITALY v WALES Venue: Stadio Flaminio Date: Saturday, 14 March Kick-off: 1500 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC ONE Wales and online, full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, Radio Cymru and online plus score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live
Italy's rugby development stalls
Italy coach Nick Mallett has denied he is under pressure ahead of their clash with Wales in Rome on Saturday.
Mallett's assertion came after ex-Wales flanker Lyn Jones said the Azzurri players are unhappy with Mallett.
Italy prop Salvatore Perugini has also denied players have complained to national chiefs about the coach.
Mallett said: "I don't feel under pressure... when you come and coach Italy at the Six Nations level, they've only won six games in 10 years."
He added: "It's not as though you're expected to win every game you play."
Mallett contends Italy's problems have surfaced due to the introduction of new laws this season.
The [new] laws don't suit [Italy] and unfortunately I don't think the coach suits them either
Ex-Wales and Leonessa coach Lynn Howells
He said: "It was quite clear when they made the law changes that Italy would be one of the sides that would struggle because they based their games almost solely around a driving maul and a kicking scrum-half and fly-half.
"And now the laws don't allow you to play that sort of game anymore and it's a far, faster game. It requires more skill."
But former Ospreys boss Jones feels Italy are unhappy with Mallett.
"There was a lot of negative body language [after the loss to Scotland]," Jones told BBC Wales' Scrum V Radio.
"Mallett went on to the pitch to give thanks, I don't know why. It wasn't a great show, it wasn't anything."
Reports in the Italian press allege a group of players have written a letter to Italian bosses questioning Mallett.
"It's a complete lie. None of us have written anything against Mallett," said Perugini ahead the clash at Stadio Flaminio.
The problem is that the Italian press lacks reality and objectivity
Italy prop Salvatore Perugini
"The group is united, compact and aware of our own limits."
The Azzurri are winless, lie bottom of the Six Nations table and have conceded more than 100 points in three games.
Jones, now working as an assistant coach at the Newport Gwent Dragons, described the Italians as "a rag-bob team that could play in the Welsh Premiership".
"I think they've got a lot of problems," said Jones. "There is nothing constructive in their attacking game, they'll be relying on Welsh mistakes."
Former Wales coach Lynn Howells - who had a stint in Italy in charge of Leonessa - also senses problems in the Azzurri ranks.
"Italy will find it very difficult under Nick Mallett because they find it hard to be disciplined in anything that they do," said Howells, who is now in charge of Doncaster.
"As a South African I imagine that he [Mallett] would be very disciplined.
Gwyn Jones' guide to beating Italy
"It's the weakest Italian team I have seen, the new laws have affected them more than most as their entire game is based around confrontation up front.
"The laws don't suit them and unfortunately I don't think the coach suits them either."
Perugini is aware of the task his team face against reigning champions Wales and is under no illusion as to how difficult it will be to defeat them.
"We are inferior to Wales," said Perugini. "The foreign press are right about that and we should not be offended by it.
"The problem is that the Italian press lacks reality and objectivity.
"France, Wales and England can do without top players without losing quality and intensity in play.
"People write that we can win here and there and that creates false expectations.
"What we need to do is to fly low and if in doing that we manage to play the right game and if others underestimate us, then winning is not impossible."
Wales' hopes of back-to-back Grand Slam titles were ended with a 21-16 defeat in France a fortnight ago and coach Warren Gatland has responded by making 12 match squad changes.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.