Six Nations

Italy forget Boks win as Wales, Irish approach: Parisse

2017-01-24 20:54
Sergio Parisse (Getty Images)

Milan - Captain Sergio Parisse said Italy won't be relying on the memories of their historic victory over South Africa when they host Wales then Ireland in tough openers to this year's Six Nations.

Hopes that Italy can go on to compete for honours were raised when Conor O'Shea's men beat the Springboks 20-18 in Florence last November.

But a 19-17 defeat to Tonga the following week, missed by Parisse due to a three-match suspension, brought the Italians back to earth with a bump.

Parisse, preparing for his 14th Six Nations campaign and his 10th as captain, believes defeat to the south Pacific islanders probably did the Azzurri a favour.

"The game we lost to Tonga still hurts, especially after our historic victory over South Africa the week before," Parisse said Tuesday.

"But in some ways it was a positive defeat: it means we will head into the tournament not thinking too much about our win over the Springboks in Florence."

Yet with renewed optimism surrounding the Azzurri since former Harlequins boss O'Shea succeeded Jacques Brunel last July, the Azzurri can't wait to get their tournament started.

Even if it means kicking off against two tournament heavyweights in Wales (Feb 5) then Ireland six days later (Feb 11).

"Conor has said it, and we all agree: we can't wait for the Six Nations to start," added Parisse. "That doesn't make it any easier. The tournament is always hard.

"We're starting with two home games and that's quite significant. Every time we play at the Olimpico, in front of our fans, it gives us that extra boost. Hopefully, we can pay them back."

Wales have won 22 of the sides' 24 matches, one of which was a draw, and Parisse said: "Playing Wales straight away is a tough assignment."

In 26 games against Ireland, Italy have prevailed four times although in last year's tournament the Azzurri were handed a chastening 58-15 defeat in Dublin.

In a bid to boost their defensive game, the Italians hired former South Africa international Brendan Venter as their defence coach on Monday.

The 47-year-old qualified doctor joins O'Shea's management staff in a deal that runs until the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"I played and worked with Brendan at London Irish and I think this is the best possible deal for us and for him," said O'Shea.

Venter's expertise has already proved beneficial to Italy as he worked alongside O'Shea on an ad hoc basis for the autumn Tests, leading to their historic defeat of South Africa.

"Brendan has had a great impact on the group and in the way we defended (against South Africa) and we are excited to be working with him for years to come," said O'Shea.

Parisse, who will earn his 122nd Italy cap if he plays against Wales, said how Italy manage time and potential injuries between both Six Nations openers will be crucial.

"With two games in six days we have to make sure we manage the period in between the games correctly," he added.

"Myself and the rest of the squad have full confidence in the coaching team. They will work out how to make sure we're still fresh and have energy, especially in terms of mentality, before taking on the Irish."

Read more on:    italy  |  six nations  |  sergio parisse  |  rugby
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