Sergio Parisse insists Italy still deserve a place in the Six Nations despite their nine-try 58-15 humiliation by Ireland in Dublin.
Had Ireland rounded off the 80th minute assault on the Italian line with a 10th try, the overall score would have improved upon their record 60-13 victory achieved in Italy’s first tournament participation, way back in 2000.
Since then Italy have be left with the wooden spoon ten times (soon to be 11), while winning just 12 of 84 games, but there appears to be no desire to deny the Azzuri of their automatic qualification for the annual tournament.
“It is a question I think (that is asked) when you lose matches like that,” Parisse, the Italy captain, admitted.
“People will say if Italy deserve to play this tournament or not. But when you see what we have done in the past, even against Ireland a couple of years ago (when Italy won 22-15 at home in 2013), I think Italy really deserve to play this tournament.”
It was a blow to their hopes of being competitive, and gave Ireland the opportunity to release some of the frustration that had built up in their previous three games.
“I’ve been beaten enough times by (Jacques Brunel’s) Perpignan to know he’s an astute strategist, but it’s hard to exert your game on the opposition when you lose so many players early on,” Schmidt said.
“Losing those players early on allowed us time and space to play and we capitalised on it well.
“We had some good scores, we hadn’t much luck against France and England, when scores weren’t awarded, so to finally release the pressure is nice.”
“I know people question decisions I might make, or the way we might play, but I guarantee I question it more,” he claimed.
“I’m always trying to think how we might utilise the players we have, how we might exert pressure on the opposition.
“That’s the challenge, and also to keep things fresh with 30 odd guys in camp.”
“It’s really tough to consider what are reasonable returns, because we always want more than that,” said Schmidt.
“I know we haven’t met the expectations we have of ourselves, because it’s an Ireland team regardless of who has that shirt on.
“What we’ll hopefully profit from in the future is we’ve had guys emerge we’re excited about.
“If we can get into that third or fourth spot, in the context of where we are now, that would be a reasonable return.
“For us we’re always trying to plan ahead, we’re enthusiastic about what may come out of this championship and what may lie ahead.”