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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Kirwan hails Welsh defence
Italy coach John Kirwan
Kirwan admitted Wales were deserving winners
Italy coach John Kirwan paid tribute to Wales after they succumbed to a 27-15 defeat.

The Italians struggled to find their way through the Welsh defence despite a string of relentless attacks and had to rely on fly-half Rima Wakarua's boot for all their points.

Wales, meanwhile, made a series of telling breaks, running in tries through Mark Jones, Sonny Parker and Dafydd Jones.

And afterwards Kirwan said: "We made errors mid-way through the first half when we needed to turn it into points, so you have to take your hat off to the Wales defence."

Kirwan didn't tell his players beforehand but he knew that for Italy to beat Wales they had to be in front at half-time.

"We had 40 minutes to win a game of rugby and we knew that after halftime the fatigue would get to us," he added.

"So we had a couple of opportunities and when you're talking Test match rugby and the difference between going to the quarter-finals or not, we're talking about inches.

"We missed a couple of tries by inches, everyone gave their heart and soul to try and get us to the quarters but we just missed out by inches."

Kirwan, who is contracted as Italy's coach until after next year's Six Nations, said his players were developing a self-belief.

"Players are starting to realise their potential and one thing we've been trying to create is a self-belief, that they are good enough," he said.

"When we started out a year ago we were coming in with a losing culture, I thought last night there was a lot of disappointed players who are now turning the corner, culture wise.

"So far we've reached all the objectives that we've set, it's important that this side re-sets its objectives for next year's Six Nations and we need to consolidate on this performance and keep moving up."

The match was Italy's fourth in 14 days - a match schedule Kirwan had complained about earlier in the tournament.

But on Saturday, he said: "I don't think it would be very sporting of us to take the victory off Wales. They played well and they defended well.

"I don't want to say tiredness cost us the game but all of you saw an Italian side that just ran out of juice."

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