FLORENCE: The Wallabies must acquire a ruthless streak if they are serious about wanting to be the best in the world, prop Ben Alexander says after Australia managed to stave off a spirited Italian second-half comeback on Saturday.
A weary Alexander said the Wallabies would have lost against Italy were it not for their dominant start and needed to find composure when the going got tough.
''Obviously it takes a good opposition to make you lose your composure at the start, they've got to be putting pressure on, but in saying that if we want to be the best side in the world, we've got to be able to deal with that,'' Alexander said.
''It will be a frustrating [team] review, there were a few turnovers and we allowed that try and you can't point the finger, as a group we lost that edge and let them back into the game.''
Just as the Wallabies harnessed the mental aspect of their performance to bounce back convincingly against England after their Paris nightmare, Alexander called on them to take greater resilience into their final tour match against Wales this weekend.
''If we didn't start as well as we did, we probably would have lost tonight, because we had such a good first half and built a buffer but managed to hang on,'' Alexander said.
''In saying that, we don't want to be a side that just hangs on to a lead, we want to keep putting our foot on the throat and go for it.''
Alexander acknowledged it was a tough afternoon for the forwards, despite drawing praise from Italian captain and No.8 Sergio Parisse.
''Our effort and intensity were there, we got that turnover in the first [scrum] and that set a tone, they had some penalties and they'd tap and go, whereas before they might have packed down in the scrum,'' he said.
''They were a pretty street-wise scrum, both their props have 90-odd caps, they faded a bit on the hit in the first half and when we got suckered in to it, we gave away a couple of short-arms [penalties] on our own ball, which isn't good, and then they pressured us in the second half. [It's a] very smart scrum, they're probably top three in the world and it showed.''
Captain Nathan Sharpe also chipped the Wallabies on their lineouts, which were an improvement on the scrum but also suffered from inconsistency. But the veteran lock, who will play his last Test against Wales, said several younger players were still learning about what it took to win Tests.
''I think there's always that part where guys want to contribute more and more and sometimes you can overplay your hand, and we did that a little bit [in the second half], rather than sticking to the boring things that were working well for us,'' he said. ''There's lessons to learn in all of those things. If something's working for you you've got to stick at it. If the opposition team's not dealing with it then it's about winning, not winning pretty.''
If the Wallabies thought they played the wounded-beast card well, Wales could mount a convincing challenge, said Alexander. The Welsh have endured a horror run of results, at home and away, since their Six Nations triumph in March.
''They didn't have a happy tour of Australia, haven't had a happy November so far, so … they're going to be absolutely breathing fire ready to come at us.''