The Azzurri approach this Tournament with a little more certainty and guarantees than usual following a fairly successful last tour in November. Italy is ready not to end phanie.
Since May 2021, Kieran Crowley (former All Black fullback, 19 caps) has taken charge of Italy. A nation that has not abandoned 6th place in the Tournament since 2016. A nation that since joining the Tournament in 2000 has won only 13 games for 1 draw and 101 defeats. A nation that has collected wooden spoons (11), the latest of which was in 2021.
But, during the 2022 edition, she repelled this not very glorious honorary title by the audacity, the talent, the fabulous vista and the fantastic ride of the devil Ange Capuozzo. The native of Isère told us that, against Wales (21-22 victory), “this action changed his life”. The now Toulousain has transformed the game of the Squadra, which in its wake is less uninhibited. Capuozzo has become Italy’s X-factor, the player capable of knocking people out of their chairs. But he obviously does not do everything, all alone in this selection:
” Angel is really great, enthuses Leonardo Ghiraldini (107 caps with Italy). He has really just made incredible matches, crazy matches. He also evolves in a superb club (Toulouse). Ange is this amazing player quite capable of finding spaces. On the rugby planet, few players are able to achieve what he does. There remains another important factor in the Italian system. In addition to their undeniable talent, we also saw that this Italian team was quite capable of advancing ».
Ange Capuozzo, the X factor
Dmitri Yachviliformer tricolor international scrum-half (61 selections) converted consultant for France Télévisions abounds:
” If it were necessary to limit the performance of the Squadra to the sole talent of Ange Capuozzo, it would still be far too easy. What is certain is that he greatly improves the actions of his selection and the game advocated by his teammates. He is the X factor as it exists in many teams. After all, it is a collective above all. This team has evolved well in terms of its three-quarter line. They recently scored some great tries, but it’s nice to see Ange Capuozzo evolving like this with the Italian team and even more regularly with Stade Toulousain. ».
So certainly Italy still and always suffers from chronic ailments including a form of inconstancy. To the point that we can question its place in the Six Nations Tournament in particular for the benefit of a Georgian selection, hungry, who also beat it this summer in a test match (28-19).
Georgia puts pressure on Italy
But the Georgian international opener from Montauban Tedo Abzhandadze assures that ” the Australians were beaten (2827) by very strong Italians this fall. They played very well at rugby. They scored a lot of tries. They deserved to beat the Wallabies. Ange Capuozzo is obviously very good, but his teammates also did a good job ». One of the Squadra’s former captains, Leonardo Ghiraldini, believes that some grounds for hope now exist:
” Italy will enter this tournament with a new face. During the autumn tour, the selection beat Australia even if they were not far from losing. They still deserved this victory like the one against Samoa (49-17). They stuck them with more than 40 points. Against South Africa (21-63), they held a half. But after Kolbe’s try, the South Africans gained confidence and changed pace. The Squadra found itself in difficulty. They still made an impression during this November tour ».
Yachvili gives his opinion on Italy
” The selection therefore comes out of a positive month of November. They showed great things regarding the game, the state of mind and a big defense. We often talk about the attack, but the defense was very solid too. Against the Aussies the guys went strong. They made a lot of tackles, won a lot of physical duels. They will be able to approach the tournament with more confidence. It’s up to them to surf on it to further increase the level. Sometimes confidence has failed the Italians. She was also absent during their defeat against the Georgians. We had lost a lot of fights in this match, especially the mental one. ».
” It is therefore necessary to know how to use this confidence when it is there. This month of November coincided with a recovery of the selection. It’s time to show a good face in the next Tournament. Italy has enough to be able to play at a high level and win matches, to have a response. This strong presence must also be verified in the two franchises, Zebre and Treviso. Recently Treviso played magnificently against Bayonne in the Challenge Cup (45-7). It is also an excellent thing to draw confidence from the clubs ».
The former great international hooker from Toulouse advances other arguments to hope for continuity in the transalpine upturn.
“Italy made an impression in November”
The Italians who will receive three times in the Tournament (France, Ireland, Wales) can do well because a lot of their players are used to playing at a high level in big clubs:
” Italy won a magnificent victory over Wales last year in the Tournament by scoring a magnificent try at the end of the match (22-21, Padovani, Editor’s note). So they can very well repeat this kind of performance. Italy can have their say if they put the right ingredients into the game with the right mindset coupled with confidence and great defence. If they are able to have the right aggression in a good way, they will also be able to respond on a physical level. “.
An Italian XV who is gaining experience
” The Squadra can also count on players who have acquired more experience now. Some have even left to harden themselves abroad. This is the case of pillar Danilo Fischetti and Luca Morisi (London Irish), Marco Riccioni also plays in England (pillar of Saracens, Editor’s note). The selection now counts on players who have lived abroad. They were able to discover a new and different kind of rugby and that can only be positive for the team. The big key for Italy in the Tournament will be to start at a good level while maintaining it throughout the matches. It is essential in an event like the Tournament. Afterwards, the results will follow naturally ».
We will see how the Italians progress during this 2023 Tournament and if they are progressing in the competition. But, unlike other years, some signs of optimism remain. The best selections of the Tournament are well aware that Italy is also capable of producing beautiful rugby with great flights. The whole thing is to maintain a good degree of performance continuously with the fewest possible air holes. In short, let it not be flashes.
His last 10 tournaments
- 2022: 6th (1 win, 4 losses)
- 2021: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2020: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2019: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2018: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2017: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2016: 6th (0 wins, 5 losses)
- 2015: 5th (1 win, 4 losses)
- 2014: 6th (0 wins, 5 wins)
- 2013: 4th (2 wins, 3 losses)
During the autumn tour, Italy totally disintegrated Samoa 49-17, despite being reputed to be very physical. This win really boosted their confidence.
In the process, Italy beat Australia for the first time in its history (28-27). Suffice to say that this success made the Italians understand that they could compete at least in one match with the best nations in the world.
Ange Capuozzo at the top of his form remains the X factor of this Italian team. Lively and endowed with a supersonic look, he often sows panic in the opposing team.
During the November tour and the defeat against South Africa (21-63), we saw Italy hold one half out of two. It is imperative to erase this inconstancy.
Following his fantastic ride which circled the planet last year against the Welsh, Capuozzo risks being much more watched from now on. Italy beaten by Georgia 28-19 this summer sees its opponents progress too. That his place could be called into question in the Tournament should not be such as to reassure the Italian internationals.