Italy captain Sergio Parisse is eager to begin their November series with a win over Samoa before tackling Argentina and South Africa.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse is eager to start their November campaign with a Test victory over Samoa before they face Argentina and South Africa.
Parisse says a victory over the islanders will be “crucial” if the Azzurri are to build confidence ahead of the tougher challenges ahead.
“It’s crucial for us to start this Test series off on a positive note with a win,” Parisse told reporters.
Italy head into the November Test series looking for massive improvements after finishing with the Six Nations wooden spoon and returning from a June tour of the South Pacific without a win.
Jacques Brunel has welcomed several players back from injury, including Francesco Minto, Luca Morisi, Simone Favaro and Edoardo Gori.
New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona and Fijian Samuela Vunisa are also among three squad debutants alongside Simone Ragusi for November’s Tests.
Samoa have beaten Italy on their past two meetings, including a 15-0 win in Apia last June.
And with the 2015 World Cup in England on the horizon, Parisse said only a win will do against Samoa in Ascoli Piceno on November 8.
“For us it was a heavy defeat away to Samoa and it’s not going to be necessarily any easier this time,” added Parisse, who was confirmed as Italy’s skipper on Wednesday after doubts were raised following his absence from the summer tour.
“They’re a strong side, so it’s crucial for us to start this Test series off on a positive note before the more difficult challenge of taking on Argentina and South Africa.”
Italy’s last win of any kind was a 37-31 win over Fiji in Cremona a year ago.
Since then, Brunel’s men notably suffered heavy defeats to Ireland (46-7) and England (52-11) in the Six Nations and lost three June Tests to Fiji (25-14), Samoa and Japan (26-23).
Brunel said: “We took a step backwards last year and lost matches that we could have and should have won.
“We lacked spirit, but this is something we’ve worked on – our hunger for victory.”
Although welcoming back a handful of players whose youth and experience will be valuable next month, Brunel has also reached out to Haimon and Vunisa.
Parisse admitted he did not “know them very well”, but warned the newcomers they will have to lift their game if given the chance.
“For sure, they’re both happy and proud to be selected to the Italy squad. It means the coach feels they have the necessary attributes,” Parisse told AFP.
“But international rugby is harder than club level rugby. I’m sure they’ll be given a chance to show what they can do in the upcoming Test series and hopefully they will take it with both hands.”
Having settled into life in the north of Italy with top flight side Zebre, Haimona and Vunisa said they are ready if given the chance.
Both, however, said their call-ups felt “more special” because they had “started from zero” without being eligible through a distant Italian family member.
“I still see myself as a Maori boy from a small town in New Zealand, so to come this far having done all the hard work to get into the Italy squad makes it all the more special,” Haimona told AFP.
“Really, it’s a dream come true for me.”
Vunisa said: “We get the odd joke from our friends back home but everyone in Fiji is really happy for me. All my friends would love to be where I am right now.
“Now we have a chance to face some of the big boys in international rugby. But there’s no hiding. You just have to go out there and front up.”