Australia lost Michael Lynagh, their captain, with a thigh strain and George Gregan, who was making his debut, with an eye injury after the interval. But, led by the charging runs of the flanker Ilie Tabua, they finally recovered their poise.
Tim Wallace kicked the goals that mattered, including the winning penalty in the 73rd minute. Matthew Burke was Australia's other try scorer. Massimo Bonomi scored the Italian try, while Luigi Troiani kept them in the match with five penalties.
Meanwhile, the French back row Abdelatif Benazzi was yesterday highly critical of New Zealand rugby, accusing the country's forwards of playing too rough.
Benazzi was still angry after the tourists had earned a hard-fought 33-25 victory over a New Zealand XV at Wanganui. 'Their aggression is unhealthy,' he said. 'On Saturday, you could say that when Philippe Benetton was head-butted it was accidental. But when Laurent Benezech received a set of studs in the head, that was intentional.'Reuse content