Verdict on Italy: Sole shines as Italian forwards earn their spurs

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The Independent Online

He comes a little distance away from the vineyards of Chianti and the Apennines mountains. Truth be told, he does not even look Italian and he certainly does not have the dramatic gestures and mannerisms so beloved of the Italian people.

But there's a reason for that - Josh Sole is about as Italian as Colin Meads. In fact, he hails from Hamilton, just a couple of hours' drive from Meads' north island home in far away New Zealand. But at Twickenham yesterday, he reminded us what an honest back row forward can do.

How Sole arrived in the Italian team is a bit of an imponderable, given that his father is Scottish. No matter, the man who made his debut for the Azzurri in 2005 played a superb game to show the value of overseas recruits to Italy's beleaguered rugby team.

Sole stood out simply by how well he did the basics. He won ball at the tail of the line-out, foraged in the loose and when Italy's one serious move of the match required momentum, he was on the spot to do the job. It wasn't the kind of jaw-dropping performance so typical of Richie McCaw, but amid a sea of mediocrity, he impressed by doing the simple things effectively.

Nor was Sole the lone Italian forward to stand out. Not much good news has come out of Sicily lately, but Sicilian loose head prop Andrea Lo Cicero gave a pounding performance of that made the Italian pack a constant headache for England.

At 30, he has been around the traps a few times but his defence around the rucks and mauls was strong - it was just a pity that with the exception of the move that brought them their try, the backs could make no headway. Had they done so, even Jonny Wilkinson's kicking might not have been enough for England.

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