It’s been said before but I really think Italy are building for the future. New head coach Kieran Crowley has picked a squad with some exciting young players – my Benetton side are providing 23 members of Crowley’s party for this Six Nations.
The main goal for Italy is to stay competitive in each match during this tournament. They proved they can do this in spells during the autumn but it’s important they manage to do it for the entirety of matches.
The Azzurri will have chances to win games, I believe that, and it’s about taking those chances and performing throughout.
I look back to the 2007 championships, where we won our first ever away game in the Six Nations – at Murrayfield – before beating the Welsh in Rome.
It’s a special memory in my rugby career and I hope some of these young players also remember Italy’s past successes for inspiration.
Ones to watch
There are a few players I’d be keeping an eye on while watching Italy. Gianmarco Lucchesi is a promising hooker, while captain Michele Lamaro should lead the team forward in the next few years.
Paolo Garbisi, the Montpellier fly-half, will look to control the game and Tommaso Menoncello at outside centre should have an impact later on in the tournament. I am not sure he will play this weekend in Paris as he’s returning from an injury.
There are a number of new guys and the squad as a whole will need time to get used to playing at this level but that’s the way you improve and establish yourself as part of an international side.
What we do have in Italy is a stronger club structure than we have had in years gone by. There needs to be a healthy relationship between clubs and country, and we need those Italian teams to be competitive.
As the head coach of Benetton, I’m proud that we have those 23 players in the squad but it’s our job to make these players better every day and that has to then transfer to the international stage.
That’s why it’s important for Italy to stay in the Six Nations. We are the best fit for the competition; there’s not a better team in Europe to play in the Six Nations.
Italy need to win more games, yes, and that will silence those critics. It hasn’t happened in the last few years but we have been competitive.
International rugby is simple: you need to build the pressure and take your opportunities. Maybe Italy haven’t played that way in the past but if we can do that this year, we can build.
|Italy player of the tournament?||Paolo Garbisi|