STADIUM: Stadio Olimpico
HEAD COACH: Kieran Crowley (NZL)
CAPTAIN: Michele Lamaro
There will be new faces featuring at hooker during the tournament, with regular starter Luca Bigi not selected, so Gianmarco Lucchesi is the most experienced player in that position (with eight caps). In the back row, Italy will be thankful to have both Sebastien Negri and Braam Steyn available, as they are the ones most likely to gain ground and punch holes in opposing defences, and lock Niccolo Cannone is another who can make things happen. The emerging half-back partnership of Gloucester’s Stephen Varney and Montpellier’s Paolo Garbisi is definitely something to keep an eye on, as it led to some good opportunities for Italy during last year’s tournament, whilst Benetton centre Ignacio Brex and winger Monty Ioane were two of the Italians’ most dangerous attackers last year, and will be essential to their hopes this year too.
2021 PLACING: 6th
2022 TOURNAMENT PREDICTION:
It is difficult to see Italy finishing anywhere other than bottom of the table, and it is also difficult to see them winning a game during the tournament. However, if we look at the performances from last year, then there were some good early signs. What they need to do now is to put on those performances on a more regular basis, as they fell away last season after their promising start. Kieran Crowley will look for his players to make an impression in his first tournament in charge, and he is clesrly looking to usher in a new era for Italian rugby with some of his selections. Whilst the results will likely not be good for them, if the performances show promise, that will be a good start for Crowley, and will give him something to build on.