Sergio Parisse believes that Italy are on the right track after some impressive performances during the November Internationals.
Italy open their 2012 campaign by facing France in Rome, with the corresponding fixture two years ago against Les Bleus resulting in their most famous victory to date, an outcome that Parisse would love to repeat.
"Two years ago, France lost not because we were the better team, but because when a French side feel like it is easy, they start making mistakes and bad decisions," said Parisse.
"Even if we beat France two years ago, they are playing very well now. Wales and Ireland are two teams that we rarely defeat - I've never beaten Ireland in my career - so it will be good to play them in Rome. For the opposition playing there is difficult."
Parisse believes that Italy are continuing to grow as a side and are catching up with their Six Nations rivals, highlighting tighter matches between the Azzurri and their opposition in recent tournaments.
With Brunel's philosophy of running rugby gradually paying off, Parisse hopes that by the time he decides to retire, Italy will be in with a shout of winning the whole championship.
"Five or six years ago we would have had a tight match with Scotland and then conceded 30-40 points against Wales and Ireland and then 50 against England or France. Now we are a lot closer, but to be credible we have to get results," added Parisse.
"It's not enough though to simply play well as you have to win, but I hope because we have three games at home that this will be the year that changes our expectations about the tournament in the future.
"The next step is to believe in how Jacques [Brunel] wants us to play. We don't fear any of the other sides and we have a chance to show that we have improved after the November Internationals.
"With Jacques being a French coach, he wants us to be a team that is not all about the forwards. You can't put the opposition under pressure if you are always defending and kicking the ball away, so he is trying to install the same mentality as the French to take risks and counter-attack more than in the past.
"My retirement is a long way off, but my dream is that by the time I stop playing I want to see us to be a side that are competitive enough to try and win the tournament. I hope and believe that we can be in that position in four or five years time."
As for the 2013 campaign, the Stade Français number eight believes that despite England's victory over New Zealand, France are favourites for the tournament due to the ability to adapt.
"England may have beaten the best side in the world in New Zealand, but I feel that France are favourites," stated Parisse.
"England are very structured and try to overpower the opposition but they are not able to adapt like France. When it comes to the freedom to play, nobody is better than France.
by Ben Coles