Colours: Blue and white
Nickname: The Azzurri
Coach: Former Stade Francais and South Africa boss Nick Mallett took over the Italy job from Pierre Berbizier in October 2007. English-born but having moved to Cape Town as a child, Mallett was a record-setting leader of the Boks and spent four years in Paris as coach, where he won two domestic titles before the Azzurri came calling. The 54-year-old's stay in Rome is coming to an end however as he will be replaced after the World Cup by current Perpignan and former France assistant coach Jacques Brunel. Despite being recognised as one of the best in the business, many feel Mallett has taken Italy as far as he can and it's time for fresh ideas.
Captain: Born in Argentina, back-rower Sergio Parisse has been the fulcrum for both Stade Francais and Italy for some time now and enjoyed his finest individual season in 2008 when he was a nominee for IRB Player of the Year award. So much asked of him, so much delivered, a truly unique talent and grafting player. Would make many a top international side. A serious knee injury ruled him out of the 2010 Six Nations and he was sorely missed.
Player to watch: For years Italy have struggled to find a quality fly-half to lead their attack, but in stalwart wing Mirco Bergamasco at least they have a solid goal-kicker. Italy have always based their game around their pack where Martin Castrogiovanni is the king-pin in the front row.
Profile: While soccer remains the sporting passion of Italy, interest in rugby is at an all-time high and after years of knocking at the door they were finally rewarded with a place in the Six Nations championship in 2000 and their continuing participation in the northern hemisphere's most famous tournament will doubtlessly allow them to improve their world standing.
When Nick Mallett took over the team (from former All Black John Kirwan), it was hoped that Italy would gradually throw off their traditional one-dimensional forward-oriented style to embrace the all-action gameplans adopted by the top rugby nations during the professional era. But the Azzurri's limited player resources have meant they are obliged to play to their strengths i.e. their massive pack, especially the front row.
With their top players now all involved in European club competition in both the Heineken Cup and Magners League, the overall standard of play is improving all the time but it is likely to be a number of years before Italy win their first Six Nations championship.
Having said that, in recent years they have generally managed to pick off a home victory most years and have come desperately close to causing a major upset on few occasions.
2010 saw the Italians beat Scotland and hold England to a five-point margin. Can they go one better in 2011? Anything is possible.