We heard this week that Nick Mallett said that the Six Nations are more exiting than the Rugby Championship and the people up north are certainly think in the same direction.
With huge success in last years end of year tours to the UK the Six Nations Championship is the next step for the nations to show that it was firstly not a just a once off and secondly to make sure that they get it right building towards the World Cup in 2019. With no Northern Hemisphere teams in the 2015 semi finals one can be assured that they want to put that right come Japan 2019.
The first of the nations we will look at in our lead-up to the start of the Six Nations is Italy.
Although many South Africans will say that any team would have beaten the Springboks last year, one cannot downplay the significance of their first ever victory over the Springboks last year. This will be a major boost for the “Cinderella” team of the Six Nations and it will gave them the believe to take on the might of Europe in the next few weeks.
Their is also some expectation with the first start for Conor O’Sea’s as head coach of the Azzurri in the Six Nations this year and much are expected from the head coach. He took over the team last year during the June Internationals and are barging not just with a win over the Springboks for the first time in their history but also a 50% record under his control.
The biggest problem for the Italians have been their inconsistency and over the years we have seen them beating a top team the one weekend just to lose badly against another team the next weekend. Last year after getting the historical win over the Springboks they lost the next weekend to Tonga.
Something the coach will definitely will want to sort out as there is not any second chances in the Six Nations.
2016 Six Nations was not a year which the Italians will want to remember as they lost all their matches and they will want to correct that wrongs this year. The never looked like winning any game last year although they came close when they played France to a 23-21 narrow lost.
They will kick off their Six Nations against Wales and Ireland in Rome which could add to more motivation to have good start this year.
One player that stands out for the Italians and they will depend on him heavily is their captain Sergio Parisse. He has been one of the best players in the world last year at number eight and he leads from the front which you need in a spirited squad like Italy. He is an outstanding defender and always put his team on the front foot which will be critical for them to succeed against the likes of Ireland and England.
Prediction: To be honest one do expect them to be more competitive this year and that they may even upset the apple cart for one or even two teams but if you have to put money on it one will have to give them the Wooden Spoon yet again.
Sunday, February 5 v Wales (Stadio Olimpico)
Saturday, February 11 v France (Stadio Olimpico)
Sunday, February 26 v England (Twickenham)
Saturday, March 11 v France (Stadio Olimpico)
Saturday, March 18 v Scotland (Murrayfield)
Italy’s squad for the RBS 6 Nations 2017:
Pietro Ceccarelli (Zebre Rugby, 5 caps)
Dario Chistolini (Zebre Rugby, 15 caps)
Lorenzo Cittadini (Aviron Bayonnais, 53 caps)
Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby, 9 caps)*
Sami Panico (Patarò Calvisano, 6 caps)*
Tommaso D’Apice (Zebre Rugby, 11 caps)*
Ornel Gega (Benetton Treviso, 8 caps)
Leonardo Ghiraldini (Stade Toulousain, 82 caps)
George Fabio Biagi (Zebre Rugby, 14 caps)
Joshua Furno (Zebre Rugby, 36 caps)*
Marco Fuser (Benetton Treviso, 16 caps)*
Federico Ruzza (Zebre Rugby, uncapped)*
Andries van Schalkwyk (Zebre Rugby, 8 caps)
Marco Barbini (Benetton Treviso, 2 caps)
Simone Favaro (Glasgow Warriors, 33 caps)*
Maxime Mata Mbanda (Zebre Rugby, 3 caps)*
Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso, 31 caps)
Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais, 121 caps) – team captain
Abraham Jurgens Steyn (Benetton Treviso, 5 caps)
Giorgio Bronzini (Benetton Treviso, 3 caps)
Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso, 56 caps)*
Marcello Violi (Zebre Rugby, 2 caps)*
Tommaso Allan (Benetton Treviso, 27 caps)
Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby, 15 caps)
Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso, 37 caps)*
Tommaso Boni (Zebre Rugby, 2 caps)*
Michele Campagnaro (Exeter Chiefs, 25 caps)*
Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso, 84 caps)
Giulio Bisegni (Zebre Rugby, 5 caps)
Angelo Esposito (Benetton Treviso, 8 caps)*
Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre Rugby, 38 caps)*
Edoardo Padovani (Zebre Rugby, 6 caps)*