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Six Nations Team-By-Team Previews: 6th Place – Italy

LYON, FRANCE - MAY 13: Harlequins Director of Rugby, Conor O'Shea looks on as his team warms up prior to kickoff during the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final match between Harlequins and Montpellier at the Grand Stade de Lyon on May 13, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)

Off the back of Italy’s worst ever Six Nations campaign, they have three home games to try and end their losing run in the competition. 

Italy have lost their last seven Six Nations games, and are reeling from a tournament that saw them concede 224 points, a Championship record.

Their domestic sides are having disastrous seasons as well. The two Italian sides have managed just three wins in the 24 games they have played in the Pro 12 together and have just two wins from their ten European games.

It’s a poor record, and whilst it appeared their international team had restored some order with a fantastic win over South Africa, that was sandwiched in between a 68-10 hammering by a second-string New Zealand team and a first ever defeat to Tonga.

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Strengths

Italy have brought in Conor O’Shea, who will likely add some dynamism to their style of play, and provide much needed motivation.

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 12:  Italy coach Conor O'Shea before the international rugby match between New Zealand and Italy at Stadio Olimpico on November 12, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

He also has good backs to work with, and will be assisted by Mike Catt in that department. They also have a decent schedule with the home games and may back themselves to nick a victory.

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Weaknesses 

Italy’s defence has been a serious problem for them over the last three years. They have conceded 69 tries in their last three Championships. Compare that to Ireland, who have conceded 16 and you can see there’s a problem.

As well as this, their pack is the weakest it’s been in years. It is normally something they build their team around, and was essential in them beating Scotland in 2015 and Ireland 2013.

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The Key Men

Sergio Parisse is not in the best form he’s ever been in, but has often produced Man Of The Match displays when it matters.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13:  Sergio Parisse of Stade Francais gestures after his team conceed a try during the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between Harlequins v Stade Francais Paris on October 13, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

They will also need Michele Campagnaro to show some of the form that saw him run in two tries in Cardiff in 2014.

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The Difference Between Success And Failure

Goal-kicking and injuries.

If Italy can’t kick their goals, they will struggle to challenge any of their opposition.

If injuries creep in, like they did last year, it will get worse and worse as things go on. But if they are able to kick their goals and can avoid injuries, they could well be dangerous throughout.

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Why Italy Will Finish Last And The Implications Of This

Italy will really struggle to win a game. They will not be able to target the Scotland game, as the Scots have improved immensely, whilst their home opposition just seem too good at the moment.

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 27:  Leonardo Ghiraldini C) of Italy is tackled by John Barcley (R) and John Hardie of Scotland during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland at Stadio Olimpico on February 27, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Leonardo Ghiraldini of Italy is tackled by John Barcley (R) and John Hardie of Scotland during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland at Stadio Olimpico on February 27, 2016.

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O’Shea has a lot of work to do, but they are at the start of a building process, and by 2019 they might well back themselves to claim some victories.

People will ask more questions about relegation and promotion if they come last, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article. But O’Shea will be prepared for that. A win in this year’s Championship would be a huge bonus.

Nick Powell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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