Gonzalo Quesada has been coaching for a decade and a half and is confident now is the perfect time to get his first experience as the head coach of a national side.
The long-time Argentina fly-half has officially take over as Italy’s next boss, replacing Kieran Crowley, following the end of the Rugby World Cup. His first game is set to be the Guinness Six Nations opener against England in Rome.
Quesada is not short of international experience. He worked as a kicking coach with France between 2008 and 2011, helping them to a Grand Slam in 2010 before reaching a World Cup final the following year. And he was also part of the Pumas set-up under Mario Ledesma, either side of leading Stade Français to the French Top 14 title in 2015.
For FIR president Marzio Innocenti, there was never any doubt that he was the right man to replace Kieran Crowley.
At Quesada’s official presentation, Innocenti said: “Firstly, I want to thank Kieran Crowley, who took over the national team and our movement during a difficult time. He was asked to bring back belief and courage to a very young squad and he did a splendid job with all the staff and brought some results with him.
“Gonzalo Quesada is a coach we chose because, despite still being young, he has been working for a long time and has shown a great deal of curiosity.
“He shows a lot of attention to detail, was part of a France staff that reached a World Cup final, he’s been to a Super Rugby final with the Jaguares and has won a title in France, where we know the Championship is very tough.
“We are not going to put pressure on him with unrealistic objectives that he cannot meet, but if the Federation is ambitious, Gonzalo is even more so and that is the primary reason why he is here as the new Italy coach.”
Abbiamo trovato il tecnico e l’uomo che volevamo per guidare #Italrugby.
Oggi è stata una giornata importante per il nostro percorso.
— Marzio Innocenti – Presidente FIR (@PresidenteFIR) October 31, 2023
Under Crowley, Italy have developed into a thrilling attacking outfit, including a first win in Cardiff over Wales, as well as a maiden success against Australia – both in 2022.
However, their World Cup campaign ended with successive heavy defeats to New Zealand and France, denying them a place in the quarter-finals.
Quesada was a keen observer of those matches, as well as the domestic form of Benetton and Zebre Parma.
And as he begins to build on the work of Crowley, with Italy taking the second youngest squad to the World Cup, Quesada’s first step will be to build a vision with his coaching staff and players.
He explained: “Choosing Italy was easy. I’ve worked in two national coaching teams before with Argentina and France, and I’ve been a head coach in Europe. The next step and my personal goal was to be able to lead a national team.
“I’m really privileged to be here, I know it is a big challenge but I’m also confident that I am ready.
“Before talking about the game, I think it will be important to have a common vision. I have my own convictions, when it comes to the game, to the identity and the culture that I want, but first I need to understand Italian rugby culture, it will be important to listen and learn a lot and then I will try to convince the players and staff to go in the same direction on this magnificent new adventure.”
— Italrugby (@Federugby) October 31, 2023
Describing himself as an Anglo-Saxon coach in his attention to detail, Quesada still has that Latin side to him, which he hopes will help him in his quest to understand Italian rugby.
And while his Italy team will likely be more pragmatic than that of his predecessor, do not expect Gli Azzurri to abandon their free-flowing approach altogether.
He added: “I really like the current game plan. I lean towards an attacking philosophy which I think can fit in well with the Italian mindset.
“We need to continue to improve and work on the basics. My ideas are also based on what I have always seen when I have faced Italy in the past, a difficult team, which is good in the scrum, in defence, which has heart and never gives up.
“We need to continue on that path and try to go even further. We are not the most physically powerful team, we and we cannot base our game around power like South Africa or England, but we need to give ourselves lots of options and play with pace, I think the players believe this too. Today’s rugby, and that of tomorrow, is a rugby based on attack.”