After finishing bottom in each of the last seven Six Nations championships, Italy will be looking to improve on that in 2023.
Kieran Crowley’s side claimed their first victory in the Six Nations in 36 attempts when they beat Wales 22-21 in the 2022 edition and will be hoping to avoid another seven year wait for their next win.
The Azzurri kick off their Six Nations campaign against reigning champions France at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
They arrive on the back of a mixed bag of results in July and November last year.
They fell to their first ever defeat to Georgia before following it up with a 49-17 win against Samoa and made one final bit of history as they secured a first ever Test win over Australia winning 28-27 but 2022 closed with a heavy 63-21 defeat to South Africa.
Michele Lamaro captains the side once again and despite the absence of playmaker Paolo Garbisi for the opening rounds through injury Crowley has a good enough squad to be competitive this time around.
Ange Capuozzo stands out as the clear x-factor for Italy if they are to have any hope of not finishing bottom. The 23-year-old outside back ended 2022 as World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year after a strong debut campaign with Toulouse in the Top 14. He recorded four tries in ten games, seven of which were starts.
His performances speak for themselves, scoring three tries in the Autumn Nations Cup games against Australia and South Africa, leading his side to victory over the former. His biggest moment still remains his play from last year’s Six Nations that secured victory against Wales, darting past the defense before assisting Edoardo Padovani for the winning try with seconds left.
The French-born Italian poses a threat to opposition with his speed, vision and star quality. While lacking in size and physicality, he is difficult to catch when in space and can unlock defences for scoring opportunities for him and his teammates. As one of rugby’s brightest young stars, the spotlight will be on him when they step onto the field.
Paolo Garbisi will be a massive addition when he returns for the Ireland game. The fly-half is the primary playmaker and excels at game management and tactical awareness, playing like an experienced veteran.
Matteo Minozzi could prove a deadly combination with Capuozzo as flying full-backs to spearhead the attack on the wings. The former Wasps player has been dogged by injuries but is healthy for the Six Nations and Crowley will look to the 26-year-old to take pressure off of Capuozzo.
Italy Six Nations full fixture list
5 February: Italy v France – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
12 February: England v Italy – Twickenham Stadium, London
25 February: Italy v Ireland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
11 March: Italy v Wales – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
18 March: Scotland v Italy – Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Featured image credit: Guinness Six Nations Youtube Channel