Italy to rely on their ‘old guard’ for Six Nations

New Italy coach Jacques Brunel says there will be no revolution when he lines up his first team for the Six Nations opener against France in Paris in February.

South African Nick Mallet’s tenure came to an end following Italy’s elimination from the World Cup at the group stages and he has been replaced by former Perpignan coach Brunel.

But the Frenchman is expecting to pick very much the same players as his predecessor, in the beginning at least.

“We don’t have much time (before the Six Nations) so it will be necessary to rely on those players,” said Brunel.

“The Six Nations is an important benchmark, it’s an important competition, it’s important for the players.

“We must be ready very quickly for this tournament so we must rely on the players who played in the World Cup.

“In June during the international test matches it will be necessary to explore the potential of young players.

“That will allow us to rest those who played in the World Cup who started playing in July and will still be playing in May following 11 months of competition.”

Italy will start their Six Nations campaign against France and Brunel is expecting a tough test as the French will be gunning for revenge having lost to Italy for the first time in the Six Nations back in March.

“It will be a difficult match in Paris, there will be revenge in play and also the fact that today France are third in the world.

“We’ll play against the third best team and they want revenge, that’s difficult.

“But it’s good to start with a difficult match, that will allow me to find out exactly what this team is capable of.”

Brunel believes Italy have the potential to win the Six Nations within three years and to break into the top six in the world by the end of the next World Cup.

The country are certainly reknown for their strong pack but have always been lacking in the backline.

And Brunel expects to achieve noticeable improvement through finding a better balance.

“Defence and attack are linked, it’s all about balance. When the balance is broken you don’t get the results,” he added.

“You cannot be good in attack if you’re not good in defence, and vice versa.

“Everything is linked, you can’t look at the team from one perspective, together it’s a balance.”

Brunel will be relying heavily on his Italian staff such as backs coach Alessandro Troncon, a former Italy scrum-half, which is why he hasn’t brought his own staff.

“I’ve always functioned like that, I’ve worked with those already in place,” he said.

“When in the (French) national team (as an assistant) I worked with people I didn’t know and had never worked with.

“I’ve always done that. On top of that I think the staff know the players and Italian rugby best so I think this will help me a lot.”

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