Italian rugby is riding the crest of a wave after a resurgence in 2022 and Kieran Crowley wants the Azzurri to establish themselves as one of rugby’s great entertainers.
Victory over Wales in Cardiff in the Guinness Six Nations ended a seven-year drought in that competition before the side backed it up with some impressive performances in the autumn including a first-ever win over Australia.
They did so by playing a thrilling brand of rugby, spearheaded by World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Ange Capuozzo, the architect of the match-winning try in Cardiff.
The full-back added three tries in two matches in the Autumn Nations Series, with Italy crossing the whitewash 11 times in all during wins over Samoa and the Wallabies and a defeat to world champions South Africa.
Their return of 3.67 tries per match was second only to Scotland of the teams in the Guinness Six Nations, and is a reflection of Crowley’s approach to the game.
Crowley explained: “We will change a couple of things for the Six Nations, you have always got to look to be a little bit innovative.
“We as coaches have a responsibility to rugby in general, we’ve got to make it a little bit more attractive to the spectators.
“It’s an entertainment business, you’ve got to have more fan engagement so Test match rugby is about winning and losing in the end, because that is how you keep your job when you see how it’s going.
“But I’m an older coach now and it’s not such a priority for me, so we have a responsibility to put a product on the field that is good to watch.”
Italy will kick off their campaign against France in Rome, looking to end the Grand Slam champions’ current streak of 13 consecutive victories.
And Crowley knows that his team will need to play to their strengths, while looking to counter Les Bleus’ strength at the breakdown.
He added: “Technically, we need to keep working on our set-play. You have to play a game that suits the players you have. We are not a massively big team, when you look at a team like France.
“So technically we have to get our breakdown right, we have to get our scrum right and our lineout work right. If we can get those sort of things right, then we’re in games.
“Players today are so technically proficient at stealing ball, and being street smart. That is probably one area that we need to get a bit better at, being street smart. We’ll keep working on our basics.”