Coach: Jacques Brunel
Home ground: Stadio Olimpico, Roma
Ambition. The whole team is aligned and motivated. Andrea Masi, the Italian utility back who plays with London Wasps in the Premiership, declared: “We are working well, we are calm. We want to be ambitious and continue to express ourselves as we did in November.” The Italian pack will be typically feisty and won’t lie down for anyone. It’s also the time of year again when Sergio Parisse reminds us all of just what a class act he is.
Ingenuity and creativity in the backs, or lack thereof. Having an exciting back three is all well and good, but if you have one-dimensional players inside them there’s not much they can do. The backs coach, Philippe Beriot, said: “We are seeking to be more effective, to have a better balance in how we use the ball. The first phase is crucial.” Furthermore, Italy must begin to play to the same level both the first and the second half.
Player(s) to watch: Gonzalo Garcia and Paolo Buso
Brunel named 27 of the 30 men of the last November’s team: among the backs, Mirco Bergamasco is still recovering from a bad knee injury and has been replaced by Zebre’s captain, Gonzalo Garcia. However, there is a new face in Paolo Buso, the twenty-six year-old Zebre fullback who played only forty minutes during the 2008 RBS 6 Nations against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Last season: 5th.
Italy avoided the wooden spoon by defeating Scotland in their last game.
Italy are improving and has having the right mental approach. Brunel said: “Italy is still growing. We have been on the right track over the last 6 Nations and the autumn match against the All Blacks. Now we have to confirm that we can perform over the length of the tournament.” Sergio Parisse, the Azzurri’s captain who is set to play his fifth RBS 6 Nations, added: “We want to continue along this path: put in place a dynamic game, dangerous for the opponents, ambitious. We don’t wait to defend, we will work to attack.” The target will be to beat at least two teams, but sadly it could well be the case again that Scotland vs Italy is the wooden spoon decider, and with the game at Murrayfield this year, it could go the way of the Scots.
by Luca Sabia