The situation at number ten for Italy is less promising than at scrum-half…
The situation at number 10 for Italy is less promising than at scrum-half, and certainly there are no stand-out candidates to replace the 'smiling assassin', Diego Dominguez.
2011's crop represent only short-term answers but if Italy – like every team in the world – is really taking it 'just one game at a time', then the short-term is all that matters.
In light of Craig Gower's injury, Luciano Orquera has been granted another stab at running the show for Italy. His first tenure came in the 2005 Six Nations but it was an unsuccessful year for Italy and Orquera suffered the perhaps unfair consequences: three years of international exile. But such is life for out-of-favour fly-halves.
Back in favour now, Orquera offers Nick Mallet the simple advantage of having a similar style of play to that of Gower's: both like to draw opponents onto them and then slip the pass away before contact- the difference being that Gower does it better. Where Orquera hangs back a touch, Gower really threatens the opponents' defensive line. So Orquera must instead trust in Canale, Masi and McLean to make the inroads and focus simply on providing them with good ball they can gallop on to. A major plus point however, is that he again represents an unknown quantity for the home unions-as it has been 6 years since he has made a start against any of them. Combine this with a box-of-tricks he's picked up playing in France and Orquera has the capacity to be an unlikely Six Nations game-changer.
He is often held up in the Italian press as the type of ageing, journeyman import who is slowing down the growth of Italian rugby: not good enough to contribute to the national side yet so damn reliable at club level he prevents home-grown talents from gaining important game-time. This season that perception has been partly changing. Treviso's good run to eighth position in the Magners league and the six wins they have notched up in the process have no doubt coaxed this turn-around of opinion into turning around. But if Treviso are performing above themselves, it is, in part, due to the way Burton kicks his forwards into good positions, and then squeezes the best out of his limited back-line in attack. This is the task he will be asked to replicate by Nick Mallet when coming off the bench in this year's tournament. But with his penchant for a drop-goal, Burton will surely be aiming to go beyond this simple remit and get people talking about his presence in Italy for the right reasons.
Slender and speedy, Bocchino will start the tournament playing in the 'A' squad for whom he'll at least get to play some rugby. Something he's done little of for his club Aironi. The New Zealander James Marshall has been blocking his way at number 10, meaning Bocchino has been limited to only 149 minutes of domestic action this season, scoring nine points. These discouraging statistics aside, Bocchino is a handy player and as the only true Italian fly-half in and around the national set-up he could be called upon sooner than he expects if the adopted Italians, Orquera and Burton, fail to cut the mustard. In such a case, the simple joy of being given a run-out could be inspiration enough to cause sides problems.
By Jack Zorab