Italy Under-20s have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes in recent years and the latest crop will look to build on that in 2021.
Many of the 2020 vintage have already made the step up to senior honours, and the current squad features players who have enjoyed some memorable successes at Under-18s level.
As well as improving Six Nations results, Italy had finished in the top ten at the last three World Rugby Under-20s Championships prior to last year’s cancellation, a feat they had never previously managed.
Here is all you need to know about the Italy side:
Last time out
Due to the Covid pandemic, Italy played just three of their five matches last year, but they did enough to show that it was a promising group of youngsters. With the likes of Stephen Varney and Paolo Garbisi in the half-backs, now first choice for the senior team, as well as full-back Jacopo Trulla, the Azzurrini kicked off with a 17-7 win in Wales.
They followed that up with defeat in France, in a game in which they did not trail until the last ten minutes, eventually going down 31-19.
And it was a similar story against Scotland, as they raced into a big lead only to be denied at the last, 30-29.
Italy’s best finish came in 2018 when they finished fourth, beating both Wales and Scotland, while they came desperately close to beating Ireland as well, losing 38-34 despite playing 70 minutes with 14 men.
The likes of Danilo Fischetti, Michele Lamaro and Niccolò Cannone were all key figures in the pack and have all since gone onto senior honours. Meanwhile, fly-half Antonio Rizzi pulled the strings in the backline.
The Championship will be played from June 19 to July 13 on five match days at Cardiff Arms Park in Wales to help reduce travel and ensure greater rest periods for players.
Matchday squads will feature 26 players due to the streamlined nature of the Championship, with three games played consecutively on each day.
Italy kick-off their campaign against the hosts Wales in Cardiff, looking to build on last year’s success over the same opponents. In fact they have won on their last two visits to Wales and will be keen to make it a hat-trick.
After that they face France, followed by clashes with Scotland and Ireland.
And their campaign concludes on July 13 against England.
Ones to watch
While a host of the 2020 squad have already progressed to senior honours, there are still a number of returning players from that group included in Brunello’s squad.
Luca Andreani, the imposing back-row forward, will captain the side and showed recently in a narrow loss to a France development XV, that he leads by example.
Leonardo Marin looks to be the latest fly-half to follow in the footsteps of Rizzi and Garbisi, and he could link up with Paolo Garbisi’s younger brother Alessandro, a talented scrum-half.
Elsewhere in the squad, Tommaso de Bartolomeo looks a very handy hooker, while Fabio Schiabel in the centres scored the match-winning try two years ago in a win over Scotland in the Six Nations Under-18s Festival.
Massimo Brunello will be at the helm for Italy Under-20s for his second campaign, having taken over in 2020.
The former Italy back, who won eight caps for his country between 1988 and 1993, had previously worked with the Italy age group set-up.
In 2015 he took charge at Calvisano, winning the Italian Championship on two occasions.
And now Brunello will be looking to build on a strong first campaign in charge in his first full Championship at the helm.
Italy squad for 2021 Under-20 Six Nations
Manfredi ALBANESE (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano)
Luca ANDREANI (Rugby Bassa Bresciana) – capitano
Riccardo ANDREOLI (Rugby Carpi)
Andrea ANGELONE (Fiamme Oro Rugby)
Matteo BALDELLI (Cavalieri Union Prato)
Valerio BIZZOTTO (Rugby Bassano)
Fabrizio BOSCHETTI (Rugby Viadana 1970)
Michele BRIGHETTI (Accademia Nazionale Ivan Francescato)
Lorenzo CANNONE (Argos Petrarca)
Giovanni CENEDESE (Villorba Rugby)
Andrea CUOGHI (Modena Rugby)
Tommaso DI BARTOLOMEO (Argos Petrarca)
Filippo DRAGO (Mogliano Rugby 1969)
Giacomo FERRARI (Unione Rugby Capitolina)
Mattia FERRARIN (Argos Petrarca)
Arturo FUSARI (Fiamme Oro Rugby)
Alessandro GARBISI (Mogliano Rugby 1969)
Riccardo GENOVESE (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano)
Simone GESI (HBS Colorno)
Muhamed HASA (Argos Petrarca)
Leonardo MARIN (Mogliano Rugby 1969)
Giulio MARUCCHINI (S.S. Lazio Rugy 1927)
Tommaso MENONCELLO (Benetton Rugby)
Ion NECULAI (Cavalieri Union Prato)
Lorenzo PANI (Cavalieri Union Prato)
Nicola PIANTELLA (Rangers Vicenza)
Luca RIZZOLI (Unione Rugby Capitolina)
Fabio SCHIABEL (Rugby San Donà)
Mirco SPAGNOLO (Checco Camposampiero Rugby)
Nicolò TENEGGI (Valorugby Emilia)
Flavio Pio VACCARI (Unione Rugby Capitolina)
Ross Micheal VINTCENT (Accademi Nazionale Ivan Francescato)