Six Nations Pedigree:
Despite having never been a true contender for the title since their introduction into the tournament in 2000, the Italian national team continues to improve and are certainly not the push over they once were. Their fourth place finish at the 2007 Six Nations was their best ever showing in tournament, thanks largely to wins over both Scotland and Wales. Their improved showing in recent Six Nations has arguably lead to the inclusion of Italian club teams into the RaboDirect PRO12 which itself should help keep Italy competitive in the tournament.
Best Six Nations Moment:
Italy’s greatest moment in the Six Nations came in the 2011 Championship, when they defeated local rivals France 22-21 in Rome, their first victory over France in Six Nations history. This momentous result combined with narrow losses to both Ireland and Wales served to highlight just how far Italy have come since their inclusion in the tournament and bodes well for their chances in the upcoming tournament.
Biggest Six Nations Win: Scotland 17 – 37 Italy. Murrayfield, Scotland. 24th February 2007.
Biggest Six Nations Defeat: England 80 – 23 Italy. Twickenham, England. 17th February 2001.
Key Player: Sergio Parisse
Without doubt the standout player for Italy over the last five years, Parisse is a captain who leads by example and consistently puts in man of the match performances even in losing Italian sides. The number eight is a fearsome in the loose with ball in hand, but also a dominant force in the breakdown. His work at the breakdown will be vital to securing quick ball for the Italian scrum half as they look to unleash their young and exciting backline.
One to Watch: Giovanbattista Venditti
The Aironi wing/centre could surprise some defences with his pace and skill with ball in hand this Six Nations, as he looks to make his debut for the Azzurri following his call up from new head coach Jacques Brunel. The 21-year old will hope that the likely presence of club teammates Andrea Masi and Luciano Orquera in the starting line-up will encourage Brunel to select Venditti for the sake of improved cohesion in a highly revitalised Italian backline.
Six Nations Fixtures:
4th Feb 14:30 v France, Stade de France
11th Feb 16:00 v England, Stadio Olimpico
25th Feb 13:30 v Ireland, Aviva Stadium
10th Mar 14:30 v Wales, Millenium Stadium
17th Mar 12:30 v Scotland, Stadio Olimpico
Key Clash: Italy v Scotland
Despite their hugely impressive victory over the French in last season’s tournament, Italy will still be targeting their match against Scotland as a must win game. With the wooden spoon invariably being awarded to either Scotland or Italy, the Azzurri must target consistent wins over the Scots if they are to continue their development and begin to regularly challenge the likes of France and England at the top of the Championship.
Odds: 200/1 to win Six Nations
Italy Coach Jacques Brunel says:
“It is not a new thought but at Italy we have to change the balance a little. Of course we have a pack that can match any in Europe but we must not rely on them only, we have to develop a more fluid style, a sense of spirit, to create freedom, to give a free hand to the three-quarters so that they develop self-confidence.”
Italy Captain Sergio Parisse says:
“I think we will have progressed when we have a chance to win every game. If we compete in every match of the Six Nations and we have a chance to win every match then that will be very good progress. If we have a good victory but then lose by 30 or 40 points in the other games then it will be the same as ever.”
Italy will not have an easy start in the tournament, travelling to Paris to play a Les Bleus side eager to regain pride after their defeat last year. Whilst most Italian fans would be thrilled with another victory like their defeat of France last year, the Azzurri are desperately in need of consistency to aid their development, and if they can earn a victory over Scotland whilst remaining competitive in their games against France, England, Ireland and Wales, then this will be another step in the right direction for Italy.
In addition to this, if Brunel can give some valuable experience to likes of Luca Morisi, Angelo Esposito and Venditti, and in the process unearth a star in the making, then this will invigorate the Italian national team who have long relied on their dominant forwards to win them matches. 5th
by Alex Shaw