England stunned by Italy

England suffered a shock 15-14 loss to minnows Italy in a World Cup warm-up match on Saturday — just a week before the tournament starts.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 21 Oct 2013, 12:51 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 12:13 PM

Italy, who’ve yet to play in a World Cup, led 10-4 before two tries from Sam Tomkins gave England, the main tournament hosts, a 14-12 half-time lead in Salford, near Manchester.

But a drop-goal from winger Josh Mantellato two minutes from time condemned England to a one-point defeat and left their supporters fearing the worst ahead of next week’s tournament opener against Australia in Cardiff.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Steve McNamara, the England coach. “We’ve certainly not played anywhere near what we are capable of. That’s quite clear to see.”

England only arrived back from a two-week training camp in South Africa three days before this match but McNamara insisted that was not the reason for their stunning defeat. “We gambled on a long trip but they were absolutely fine,” he said. “They were fresh and ready to go.

“I just think our mentality was really wrong for this game. We were probably guilty of looking towards next week and we took our eye off this game. I don’t think we were fully focused.” The only consolation for McNamara was that this dire display had not come during the tournament proper.

“I’m glad it’s happened this week in a way rather than next week. I’m sure we will be a whole lot better for it next week. It tests our resolve, it tests us about everything we’ve been speaking about over however many years and it’s time to put that into practice. It’s for real now and we have to respond.”

And Italy captain Anthony Minichello said he for one expected to see an improved England against Australia. “I’m sure they will be much better next week for the run, as will we,” Minichiello said. “It was a good game for us. We’ve had limited amount of preparations and it will bring the team together a bit more.

“It’s pretty special. The boys were pretty excited at the end.”

For all they are one of the sport’s traditional powers England, or Great Britain as they then were, have not won the World Cup since 1972 with Australia triumphing in the six subsequent editions before the Kangaroos were beaten in the most recent final, by New Zealand in 2008. A strong England showing is widely considered to be important if the upcoming World Cup is not going to be a drawn out series of matches leading to an inevitable Australia-New Zealand final.

But in a match watched by Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens, England came off second best albeit they and Italy used 44 players between them. A first-half rainstorm, complete with thunder and lightning, saw Italy’s Anthony Laffranchi and Dean Parata both score tries that owed much to England defensive errors.

Mantellato converted both scores before England got on the board thanks to a try from centre Carl Ablett in the 19th minute.

Then came Tomkins’s double and it seemed England had weathered the storm in all senses. Kevin Sinfield was off target with his first conversion attempt and hit the post with his second before replacement Gareth Widdop was on target.

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