Tommaso Allan sealed a four-try victory as Italy got their November Test series off to a strong start with a 28-17 win over Georgia in Florence on Saturday.
Treviso fly-half Allan, who played under-20 rugby for Scotland, accounted for 13 of Italy’s points, getting the hosts off the mark with a penalty after nine minutes.
He also scored the final try in Tuscany after 57 minutes to add to those by Michele Campagnaro (19), Mattia Bellini (38) and Dean Budd (43).
It was a big win for Conor O’Shea’s side against a Georgia team who are also pushing for inclusion in the Six Nations.
“We want to be a team of the highest level, in the last 12 months we have only won against Fiji and Japan,” said O’Shea.
“Today against Georgia — close to us in the ranking — was a fundamental victory for this group.”
It was also a boost ahead of upcoming matches against Australia and New Zealand, after Italy fell to a 54-7 defeat to Six Nations champions Ireland in Chicago a week ago.
“There was pressure, normal for a game like that, we answered well on the pitch,” said Leonardo Ghiraldini, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of injured Serigo Parisse.
Italy built up a lead of 28-10 before allowing Georgia back into the game with Tommaso Bevenuti’s yellow card and a penalty try awarded to the visitors on 62 minutes.
It was the second try for the Georgians with Tamaz Mchedlidze touching down after quarter of an hour.
“I was happy for 50 minutes then I had some difficulties in the last half hour,” said O’Shea.
“We don’t make life easy for ourselves. After Allan’s try I thought the score would be even bigger, but the match changed after the penalty which energised Georgia.”
But the hosts held on to keep their unbeaten record against Georgia, who are coached by New Zealander Milton Haig.
Italy play Australia in Padua on November 17 and New Zealand in Rome the following weekend.