Six Nations preview: Italy’s woes to continue despite having new coach in their ranks

David Skippers
Gonzalo Quesada and Michele Lamaro Six Nations 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Italy's head coach Gonzalo Quesada and captain Michele Lamaro with the Six Nations trophy.

First up in our set of previews ahead of the Six Nations we examine the prospects of last year’s bottom-placed finishers, Gonzalo Quesada’s Italy.

After another underwhelming Rugby World Cup campaign, the Azzurri enter a new era after Quesada took over the coaching duties from Kieran Crowley, who ultimately failed in his mission to guide the team to the global showpiece’s knockout stages.

The incoming head coach faces a daunting task as the Italians have been perennial underachievers in the Six Nations since making their appearance bow in the Championship back in 2000 so it will be interesting to see how they fare under a new boss.

Last year

Italy came into the 2023 Six Nations feeling good after finishing their 2022 campaign on a high when they notched a memorable 22-21 victory over Wales in Cardiff – a significant achievement as it ended the Azzurri’s 36-match losing streak in the Championship, which stretched back to 2015.

They showed that their triumph over Wales was not a flash in the pan when, later in 2022, they registered their first ever Test victory over Australia (28-27), in an end-of-year game in Florence.

That meant that they were expected to be much more competitive in the 2023 Six Nations, and they started their campaign impressively, delivering a solid performance against the defending champions and 2022’s Grand Slam winners, France, before eventually suffering a narrow 29-24 defeat.

From there, they headed to Twickenham to take on England but they could not deliver a similar performance to the one they put in against Les Bleus and eventually suffered a 31-14 defeat to their hosts.

The rest of the tournament followed a similar pattern as the Azzurri battled to match the intensity levels displayed by their opponents. In Round Three, they ran into eventual Grand Slam winners Ireland, who notched a 34-20 triumph.

Italy’s last two fixtures were against Wales and Scotland, and although they had a home-ground advantage against the Welsh, they could not repeat 2022’s heroics as Warren Gatland’s men exacted revenge courtesy of a 29-17 triumph in Rome before the Scots ran out 26-14 victors at Murrayfield.

This year

While the Azzurri’s players will be highly motivated to impress Quesada, don’t expect them to spring any surprises in 2024 as they haven’t received a favourable draw with just two out of their five Six Nations matches set be played on home soil.

They kick off their Six Nations campaign at the Stadio Olimpico against an England outfit of whom much is expected – especially after their fine overall performance at the Rugby World Cup – but Quesada is renowned for his tactical acumen and will relish the opportunity of starting his reign as Azzurri boss with an upset victory.

Italy’s next two matches will be against Ireland and France, who have been the two dominant forces in the Six Nations in recent years so, if truth be told, if Quesada and his troops can secure bonus points in defeat it will be viewed as a positive return.

Similarly to their opener against England, Quesada will fancy his chances of causing an upset against Scotland in Rome in their Round Four clash before their campaign comes to a conclusion against a young and inexperienced Wales outfit in Cardiff – another match which they will approach with some confidence.

Key players

Like most of their recent Six Nations campaigns, much of Italy’s challenge will depend on the performance of their playmakers, with the likes of Paolo Garbisi and Tommaso Allan set to lead the charge again this year. Montpellier stalwart Garbisi is a genuine superstar who can unlock the tightest defences. He will need to do just that on a consistent basis this year if the team is to succeed.

Meanwhile, with Garbisi in the team as the first-choice fly-half, Allan, who is also usually a number 10, saw plenty of action at the World Cup at full-back. This is primarily due to his excellent goal-kicking ability, and it will be interesting to see whether Quesada selects him in that position again during the Six Nations.

Elsewhere in the backline, Ange Capuozzo should provide opposing defences with plenty of headaches once he builds up a head of steam on attack. Equally at home at full-back or on the wing, the 24-year-old has plenty of pace, outstanding footwork and is blessed with an astute rugby brain. He knows his way to the try-line but also has the ability to create try-scoring opportunities for his team-mates, which makes him a genuine threat with ball in hand.

Amongst the forwards, Italy will be looking to the likes of captain Michele Lamaro, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone to lead the onslaught. The Benetton quartet head into the Six Nations on the back of some excellent performances at club level, which has taken the Treviso-based club to second position in the United Rugby Championship (URC) standings as well as a home clash against the Lions in the round-of-16 of the Challenge Cup. If they manage to replicate that form in the Six Nations, Italy could surprise some teams.

Players to watch

One player who will be determined to take his chance is uncapped Exeter Chiefs back-row Ross Vintcent, who is a strong ball carrier and solid in defence. Born in South Africa, the 21-year-old has shone for Exeter Chiefs this season after representing Italy’s U20 team in 2021 and 2022. He also caught the eye for the Italy ‘A’ side in an uncapped Test against Romania ‘A’ in 2023.

Another player who has impressed in recent times at club level for Benetton and in the Test arena for his country is experienced outside back Juan Ignacio Brex. The 31-year-old is renowned for his outstanding defensive work but has also made his mark as a ball carrier during last year’s Six Nations and has continued to shine in that department for Benetton in the URC and Challenge Cup. He will be keen to continue in that vein in this year’s Six Nations.


There should be plenty of positivity in their ranks now that they have a new man in charge as head coach, and it will be interesting to see how Quesada goes about his business compared to his predecessor, Crowley, who was renowned for employing an ambitious style of play. It’s a tough ask to come in and change things around within the space of a few months, so it should be a rough start for the new coach. Sixth.


Saturday, February 3 v England (Stadio Olimpico, Rome)
Sunday, February 11 v Ireland (Aviva Stadium, Dublin)
Sunday, February 25 v France (Decathlon Arena, Lille)
Saturday, March 9 v Scotland (Stadio Olimpico, Rome)
Saturday, March 16 v Wales (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)

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