State of the Nation: Italy primed for ‘greater heights’ after stunning Six Nations campaign

David Skippers
Italy players v Scotland SN 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Italy players celebrate their victory over Scotland in Rome.

With another fascinating Six Nations now done and dusted, we update you on the state of the participating nations, next up, fifth-placed Italy.

These are exciting times for everyone associated with the Italian game after the Azzurri showed considerable improvement in this year’s Championship.

Initially, there were some eyebrows raised when head coach Kieran Crowley’s contract was not renewed before the Rugby World Cup in France and Gonzalo Quesada took charge of the team in the build-up to the Six Nations.

Quesada took over the coaching reins and immediately indicated what he envisaged for the Azzurri with regard to their playing style and becoming more competitive.

Under Crowley’s guidance, the Azzurri employed an all-out attacking game-plan and while they haven’t completely abandoned their expansive style of play, it is noticeable that they now launch attacks in the right areas of the field and place a huge emphasis on their defence which has improved considerably.

The changes Quesada introduced had the desired effect, with Italy registering their best-ever Six Nations results in 2024, winning two matches and drawing one. Judging from their overall performance in the Championship, they are heading in the right direction and should reach even greater heights in the future.

Tournament summary

From the outset, it was evident that the Azzurri were going to be more competitive than recent Championship campaigns as they pushed England all the way in their opener before eventually suffering a narrow 27-24 defeat. Their next match was a daunting task against the defending champions, Ireland, in Dublin, and they lost their way before suffering a 36-0 defeat.

Despite that setback, Italy bounced back with a competitive display in their next match against France in Lille and clinched a 13-13 draw, but could so easily have been a victory for the Azzurri if Paolo Garbisi’s conversion attempt did not strike an upright. That gallant performance boosted the confidence of Quesada and his troops and they finished the tournament on a high with back-to-back wins in their last two matches against Scotland (31-29) and Wales (24-21).

Rating every Italy player from their impressive Six Nations campaign: ‘Record-breaking’ leader and Brex ‘arguably the best’

Standout players

Italy showed improvement in most facets of play, and their captain, Michele Lamaro, deserves plenty of praise as he caught the eye with several outstanding performances. His leadership came to the fore on multiple occasions with several high-quality decisions during pressure moments, and he played a big role in helping the team to achieve success through his overall form. Lamaro led from the front on defence and also gave a good account of himself at the breakdowns.

Lamaro received good support from the likes of Federico Ruzza and Danilo Fischetti in the forward exchanges while, in the backline, players like Paolo Garbisi, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello and Monty Ioane played consistently well throughout the Six Nations. Garbisi impressed with his playmaking skills and game management while the midfield partnership of Brex and Menoncello – now affectionately known as Brexoncello – shone in tandem as the tournament progressed, and Ioane proved dangerous with ball in hand in all the Azzurri’s matches.

Stat leaders

Although they finished in fifth position in the final standings, Italy’s players gave a fantastic account of themselves throughout the Championship and there were several players who finished on the leaderboard in the individual statistics.

Leading the way is Ioane, who was brilliant with the ball in hand throughout the Six Nations and is amongst the top players in numerous attacking statistics. The 29-year-old finished in third position for metres gained (297.4), fifth for metres carried (394.1), second for offloads (8) and joint-second for line breaks (7). Meanwhile, Garbisi was in joint-first place for try assists (3), joint-fourth for successful penalties (7) and fifth for points scored (31).

Amongst the forwards, Lamaro’s brilliance on defence saw him finishing in first position for tackles made (103) – a Six Nations record – while Niccolo Cannone was fourth in that category after completing 73 hits. There were also fine performances from Ruzza, who was first for lineout takes (33) and joint-second for lineout steals (2), while Fischetti was in fourth spot for defensive ruck arrivals (47), and Gianmarco Lucchesi was in joint-second place for breakdown steals (4).

Success story

The Azzurri were competitive in four out of five matches, with the exception of the clash against Ireland, where they battled to get a foothold and eventually suffered a 36-0 defeat. Apart from that Round Two encounter in Dublin, their defence was superb throughout, and that was the one aspect of their play that has improved dramatically in 2024.

They conceded a whopping six tries against Andy Farrell’s troops which was a blot on their copybook as they managed to restrict their other opponents to four tries or less in their other fixtures. Against Scotland, Italy conceded four tries, but they were much more miserly against Wales (3), England (2) and France (1), which meant their overall tally for tries conceded stands at 16. This shows improvement in that department after they conceded 19 five-pointers in last year’s Championship.

Main regret

The biggest talking point for the Azzurri from this campaign was the missed penalty from Paolo Garbisi with the clock in the red during a thrilling encounter against France in Lille, with that missed place-kick proving to be the difference between winning and drawing that encounter. Garbisi missed the penalty in the game’s closing stages, although only after the ball had fallen from the kicking tee.

To his credit, Garbisi took full responsibility for his failed attempt, but that kick would have made a big difference in the final standings as Italy would have finished above Scotland on the table and level on points with Les Bleus. In the end, it wasn’t to be as Italy had to settle for a record of two wins, as many losses and a draw from their five matches played, but finishing with three victories would have been a momentous achievement as it would have been the first time the Azzurri had notched so many wins since being added to the Championship in 2000.


Italy v England (lost 27-24)
Ireland v Italy (lost 36-0)
France v Italy (drew 13-13)
Italy v Scotland (won 31-29)
Wales v Italy (won 24-21)

READ MORE: Six Nations stats leaders: Italy captain Michele Lamaro smashes all-time record in passionate campaign