Italy and Mallett ready for win-or-bust clash

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Old 01-Oct-2011
Italy and Mallett ready for win-or-bust clash

Dunedin: Late tomorrow in the bowels of Otago Stadium Nick Mallett will either be feted as Italy's latest sporting hero or shake hands with his players for the final time as the curtain falls on his four-year stint as the country's rugby coach.
Whether overjoyed by Italy reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time or crushed by the pain of defeat in their decisive pool game against Ireland, the proud and likeable South African will walk away with his head held high.
"History will tell only once you've been away for a while, whether you've been a successful coach or not but in terms of the relationship I have with the team and the staff, it's been a great four years," said Mallett, who will reluctantly move aside after the World Cup to be replaced by Frenchman Jacques Brunel.
Having tasted success at club and national level with Stade Francais and his native South Africa, Mallett took something of a professional risk when he became Italy coach after the 2007 World Cup.
During his spell in charge he has lifted the country to new heights, not least their first Six Nations victory over France earlier this year.
Now he stands on the brink of taking the next step if they can find a way to beat Ireland for the first time in 16 attempts tomorrow.
The team will be buoyed by their Rome Six Nations clash in February when the Irish needed a late Ronan O'Gara drop goal to snatch a 13-11 win.
"A lot of times in the past they've been disappointed to lose but pleased to run the opposition close but there was genuine disappointment they hadn't managed to hold out and win that game," he said.
"It meant the team had started to believe it wasn't just good enough to be competitive it was really important to win the tight games. That experience helped us against France when we got into a very similar situation and hung in there and came out with a victory."

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