As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. First up, we assess Italy!
As we do at the end of every major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. First up, we assess Italy!
The record will read played five lost five for the Azzurri but there were some positives to take from the recent campaign for Jacques Brunel.
Yes, in 2013 they finished fourth, scoring 75 points and conceding 111 and this year saw them end up stone last with 63 for and 172 against. While we agree the numbers make for sombre reading, there is a fresh batch of players coming through the ranks in Italy who look promising.
Let us go through their plus points: Joshua Furno, Leanardo Ghiraldini and Leonardo Sarto all enjoyed strong campaigns while outside centre Michele Campagnaro announced his arrival to Test rugby with a two-try haul versus Wales and Luke McLean is looking more and more settled at full-back. Elsewhere, Quintin Geldenhuys tackled his heart out, but it was a worry the team now hold the record (208) for hits, claimed against Ireland.
What we can read into this is they're not doing enough with the ball as again we witnessed solid starts before the floodgates opened late on as a team can only soak up so much.
Another year together should hopefully see combinations bed in before they give it another good go in the Six Nations when they host Ireland, Wales and France in 2015. Having to travel more than they hosted this term is possibly one olive branch upon which to cling to but there is unfortunately no covering up the zero points return. Granted the Azzurri may believe they were deserving of a win over Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico but the books say L.
What is also a worry is that they have won just once in their last ten fixtures over the last ten months, with that victory coming narrowly against Fiji on home soil. That Fijian side had eleven players on the field at one point in that game when four men were sin-binned so whilst it is difficult not to be negative, Italy will cling to the small signs of individual promise.
But yes, the collective is a concern.
The next port of call will be June visits to Suva, Apia and Tokyo to face Fiji, Samoa and Japan, which could either be the start of their recovery or crisis point for Brunel. Testing matches await against that trio, who they are below in the rankings, so the pressure is on.