6:37am Sunday 2nd February 2014
ITALY talisman Sergio Parisse expressed his pride at the way that his young threequarters fared against Wales' star-studded back line, writes Chris Kirwan.
While the hosts fielded a settled line-up, the Azzurri gave youth its head with 20-year-old fly-half Tommaso Allan impressively pulling the strings and 20-year-old centre Michele Campagnaro bagging a brace.
The bookies had given Italy, who shipped a century of points in their autumn internationals against Argentina, Australia and Fiji, a 20-point headstart in the handicap yet the visitors were in with a chance of victory until Leigh Halfpenny's 74-minute penalty.
Stade Francais ace Parisse has been a world class performer for a decade and he was pleased to see the next generation showing they can mix it with Europe's best.
"As a captain, I am very proud of what the youngsters achieved," said the number eight.
"They were facing some of the most talented backs on the international stage, but they showed they can compete at this level.
"Before this match against Wales we were worried about our young backs because we conceded a lot of tries in the November Tests.
"I think we are happy for the performance but obviously, a loss is a loss so we are not happy about the result.
"I said to the guys 'we must not think we've played a good game (against Wales) and in France next week it's going to be easier'.
"In France, it's going to be 30 times more difficult. We must keep working and building in this tournament."
Italy coach Jacques Brunel added: "We are lucky to have so many good young backs. Our average today was around 22 years old.
"They must take confidence from this if they want to be part of the 2015 World Cup."
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