Conor O’Shea believes Italy sent out an emphatic statement to the rest of the Guinness Six Nations after they pushed champions Ireland to the brink in Rome.
Edoardo Padovani and Luca Morisi crossed for first-half tries to help the Azzurri move 16-12 ahead at the break as they edged towards a first home win against Ireland since 2013.
But Keith Earls and Conor Murray struck in the second half to secure a 26-16 Ireland win, moving them back into Championship contention.
However, head coach O’Shea insists he could not be prouder of his players following another quality performance.
“We felt we have climbed in terms of the level of performances this year. We were good in the first couple of games and that is why we wanted to go out there and continue to get better,” he said.
“You saw some errors from both sides but that is the way we want to play. We put them under a lot of pressure.
“We are a proud nation and we will continue to build, just like Ireland in the 1990s. I just want to do what is right for Italy, create good habits, create a good structure.
“I saw on that pitch today a lot of heart. There were errors and a loss of discipline at times but we were playing Ireland and were on the wrong end of a few things.
“We just need control at times but there were a lot of positives out there today. We are gutted about it but we will keep on moving and there is a tough game at Twickenham next.”
Italy next visit England before hosting France in the final round as they look to secure their first win of the 2019 Championship.
But O’Shea insists the display against Ireland has made him excited about what they can do in the future, with his young side continuing to progress.
“We will keep on working and hopefully we will get a bit of luck,” he added.
“Ireland may have made mistakes but we missed kicks and made errors too. We pushed them the whole way.
“These guys are an incredible bunch of people and we have a lot of long days ahead to get to where we want to be. But we will keep on climbing. And we are climbing.”