Italy once again were gallant losers in the RBS 6 Nations after battling England before yielding 31-16 on Saturday but coach Pierre Berbizier has warned his team they must expect a fierce test against France in a fortnight.
Berbizier, a former France player and coach, has seen his team produce two excellent performances, going down 26-16 to Ireland in Dublin before succumbing to England at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome on Saturday.
That has fuelled hopes the Azzurri could be poised for a first ever Six Nations away win in Paris in a fortnight but Berbizier is not making any such predictions.
He said: "The (France) defeat against Scotland was just one of those things and the Cockerels showed it by beating Ireland 44-31.
"In two weeks' time we will have a very hard match and now we must take advantage of the two-week break in the calendar.
"Otherwise we would have had to play Ireland, England and France in three weeks - the three best teams in the Six Nations.
"We have improved but we need to improve again ahead of the France game."
Asked about the performance against England in the eternal city, Berbizier said: "I am happy but we have to be more thoughtful and not to lose concentration on the important details.
"We have made further progress since the Ireland game but their (England's) attention to detail was crucial. There's not much point scoring a try like (Mirco) Bergamasco's with a 90-metre move if you then let the opponents score.
"I want us to fight with pride but remain lucid and then we must tackle the legs - the tries for (Mike) Tindall and (Charlie) Hodgson came for tackling too high."
Skipper Marco Bortolami said: "We played as England's equals for 80 minutes and no-one can deny that.
"It's incredible when you think the level of the Premiership is superior to the (Italian domestic) Super 10.
"After Ireland we have taken another step forward and I want to congratulate my team-mates."
Bergamasco said: "We must improve further and avoid mistakes. We competed on an equal level with the world champions and played better than we did against Ireland.
"Now we must go and play France and try to improve in areas where we know we need to get better."
Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Giancarlo Dondi said: "I am pleased with how the Azzurri played and I am only sorry we conceded that late try.
"It could have ended 24-16 but they managed to make it 31-16.
"But the assessment is positive and especially for the first-half performance.
"We played with courage, without fear and that's what I wanted. I am sure this squad will pull together in the future and continue to make us happy."
Conor O'Shea will lead his side to matches against Fiji and Australia
30 March 2017, 2:36pm
After a disappointing RBS 6 Nations campaign for the Azzurri - losing all five of their Championship matches and picking up their 12th Wooden Spoon - they will be licking their wounds ahead of their summer tour Down Under.
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29 March 2017, 12:25pm
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