menoncello brex
After taking on the might of Europe's strongest teams during the Guinness Men's Six Nations, things are far from slowing down for Juan Ignacio Brex.

Brex led Italy’s defence from outside centre in the Azzurri's most successful Championship campaign to date - two wins and a draw – seeing it out with a Player of the Match performance against Wales in Cardiff. Then, it was off to the airport to pick up his wife and two children.

Brex is a father to a two-year-old son and a two-month-old daughter. Mother and children had been staying with family in their native Argentina for the duration of the Championship.

Now the family is reunited in their home in Treviso, where Dad is recuperating after some bruising encounters and looking back on their maiden tournament under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada with huge amounts of pride.

“I have a gigantic smile because it is history,” Brex told us. “Before the match we talked about making history and having our best Six Nations of all time and that is why we can’t stop smiling. We did it with two huge wins.”

Their performance in Cardiff showed how far the team has developed. Star fullback Ange Capuozzo was missing, but 21-year-old Zebre fullback Lorenzo Pani stepped in and played as if to the manor born.

“Ange is a world-class player as everyone knows and he is an important player for us, as he would be for any team, but Lorenzo Pani came into the team without any problem,” Brex said. “It is very big message for us as players that we have players who can step up and be ready for any eventuality.

“We told the rugby world that if we don’t have Ange, we have Pani, a 21-year-old who isn’t fazed by playing international rugby in Cardiff. It was great for him and for Italian rugby.”


Having started well with a narrow 27-24 defeat to England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in Round 1, Italy endured a miserable afternoon in Dublin in Round 2 when Ireland won 36-0.

They rallied in Round 3 when they took on France in Lille. Having weathered the French attack for most of the first half, they went into the changing room at half-time having just scored their first points through Martin Page-Relo’s long-range penalty.

They also had a man advantage after France centre Jonathan Danty’s yellow card was upgraded to a red. Page-Relo and Thomas Ramos exchanged penalties before fullback Capuozzo dived over and Paolo Garbisi converted to set up a thrilling climax at 13-13.

Victory proved elusive when Garbisi’s anxiety-inducing last-minute penalty rebounded off a post, but key to their later progress was how the team reacted to a first Six Nations draw and point in France.

“Drawing with France gave us huge levels of motivation because as a team we deserved to win, and it was only a post that stopped us,” Brex said. “It felt like a defeat when the ball hit the post. We knew we had another shot and the team said ‘Okay, we can’t let what happened against France cloud us.’”

“During the week you could feel that we were pleased with an improved result, but that no-one wanted a draw. It annoyed me when people said, ‘Well done on the draw.’ Who wants compliments for drawing? We felt that we still had hunger and wanted to do better.”


If Brex and his teammates thought their defensive heroics were over for the tournament, then Scotland reminded them that nothing good in rugby comes easily.

After Garbisi opened the scoring with a penalty after two minutes, Scotland roared back into control with two converted tries in 10 minutes. Italy hit back immediately when Brex raced onto Page-Relo’s chip to score his first try of the championship, and while Scotland added a third try, further penalties from Garbisi and Page-Relo meant they went in at half-time within touching distance.

“We had conceded 14 points in 10 minutes, and it was up to us to turn the page and get back in the match,” Brex said. “We knew we needed a try and it meant we got back into the match.

“It was a pre-planned move and Martin didn’t say anything. We had studied their defence and saw that with that type of lineout they often didn’t have a second line of defence.

“He put in a great kick, and it bounced well for me. I don’t get many tries and it is hard to describe the sensation of scoring in front of a sold-out Stadio Olimpico, but it is incredible, and you feel the supporters' passion.”

Further tries for debutant Louis Lynagh and replacement scrum-half Stephen Varney put Italy back in the lead, and Garbisi’s third penalty put the hosts over two scores ahead.

Sam Skinner scored Scotland’s fourth try to give them hope with two minutes left. While they poured forward in attack, Italy’s defence stood firm and held the visitors out for 24 phases before a knock-on secured victory that set them up for their historic result in Cardiff.

“At that moment, I had to do my job and communicate and transmit energy to my teammates,” Brex said, “because if we hadn’t defended till the end, it would have been all over.”


Alongside Brex in the centre was one of Italy’s rising stars and a player nominated for the Guinness Player of the Championship Award, Tommaso Menoncello.

The 21-year-old Menoncello made his mark on his Championship debut against France in 2022 when his early try meant he became the tournament's youngest try-scorer at 19 years and 170 days, and he impressed in his third tournament.

“Tommaso is a definitely a beast as we saw in Cardiff,” Brex said. “Playing alongside him makes life a lot easier. It is easy to play alongside him, as he is always smiling.

“Even if it’s a bad pass that he receives, he can make something happen with it. He is a star, and it is great playing alongside him because we bring the best out of each other.


Italy have a chance to underline their success and maintain their Six Nations momentum on their end-of-season tour in July.

They travel to the South Pacific where they will face Samoa and Tonga, before returning to the northern hemisphere to face Japan in the Sapporo Dome on 21 July.

“Italy hasn’t had a competitive team for several years, but being competitive doesn’t mean two or three matches, it is in years,” Brex said. “There’s no point in beating Scotland and Wales, and drawing with France, and then coming back down to earth. We have to keep going at this level.

“They are massive challenges. Two teams like Tonga and Samoa who are super-physical and Japan, who are different. They aren’t as physical, but they’re quick and dynamic. It will be a great tour with similar challenges to the Six Nations."