Thursday, February 2, 2017

Six Nations 2017: Italy


Last year 
No wins from five in last year’s tournament for the seventh time since joining the tournament (and their eleventh wooden spoon). A win against the Springboks looked like the start of a new dawn for the Azzurri, but defeat to Tonga seven days later brought them back to earth with a bump.

Coach 
Irishman Conor O’Shea has swapped London for Rome and taken Brendan Venter with him as defence coach. O’Shea has talked about performances being more important than results for this year, but internally they will want a scalp and are capable of getting it.

Captain
The mercurial Sergio Parisse keeps rolling back the years. Without doubt the greatest player to ever pull on the Italian jersey and one of the greatest of his generation in the world.

Star player
The rise of Michele Campagnaro continues. It's been clear for some time that the Italian centre is good enough to compete against any team and his excellent form for Exeter comes just at the right time for Italy.

One to watch
The Springboks victory was a real watershed moment for Italian rugby and scrum half Giorgio Bronzini was central to that in just us second game for Italy.

Strengths
Confidence will be high in the camp after the victory against South Africa and any doubts over their ability to compete against tier one teams have been put to rest.

Weaknesses
Fitness remains Italy's enemy - especially in the pack - and they have fallen away in games. 

Prediction
How important this first game could be. A Wales team in transition make the trip to Rome where the Italians have beaten them before. A win on the opening day would boost self-belief in the Italian camp for the rest of the tournament, but one scalp somewhere along the way would likely be the best they could hope for.

Kasabian - Underdog

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