Franco Smith believes Italy’s performance against England on Super Saturday showed the strides forward his young side have made as they look to establish their identity on and off the pitch.
The Azzurri caused the eventual 2020 Guinness Six Nations champions plenty of problems in Rome, responding to conceding an early try by scoring one of their own through Jake Polledri.
Trailing just 10-5 at the break, the hosts continued to frustrate England before Eddie Jones’ men eventually managed to pull away to secure a bonus-point 34-5 victory.
And Smith is confident Italy are progressing in the right direction, highlighting the attitude and physicality they showed against the Red Rose in their Championship finale.
“Meeting the players and staff colleagues for the two Guinness Six Nations remaining games was not only incredibly exciting, after the long hiatus due to the pandemic but it also represented a solid and clear starting point in the path we have taken for this group,” he said.
“We are very clear about the identity we want to give to the national team, both from the point of view of the game and of the team spirit.
“I am convinced that last Saturday’s match against England showed some positive signs, in particular from the point of view of attitude and physical challenge.
“We are building a young team, with a new mentality, a new game, a new technical creed and this process is also based on the lessons that can be learned by playing at the highest level.
“From the Dublin match to England I have seen a lot of progress, but a lot remains to be done to find continuity in our game. I am comforted by the great will I saw in Rome on Saturday night.”
Smith is now preparing Italy for the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.
The eight-team tournament will see the Azzurri face Scotland, Fiji and France in Group B before taking on a Group A opponent in a ranking game on finals weekend to decide their final placing.
Smith has included four uncapped players in his squad, which will be led by Luca Bigi, with Daniele Rimpelli, Nicolae Cristian Stoian, Jacopo Trulla and Stephen Varney all named.
Luca Sperandio also returns to the squad almost two years after his last international appearance in Rome and Tommaso Allan is included among the options at No.10.
Smith added: “The matches against Scotland, Fiji and France will have to mark a new step in the process of building the team we want to be.”
Italy training squad for the Autumn Nations Cup
Forwards Pietro CECCARELLI (Brive) Simone FERRARI (Benetton Rugby) Danilo FISCHETTI (Zebre Rugby Club) Daniele RIMPELLI (Zebre Rugby Club) Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Zebre Rugby Club) Luca BIGI (Zebre Rugby Club) Leonardo GHIRALDINI (Sans club) Gianmarco LUCCHESI (Benetton Rugby) Niccolò CANNONE (Benetton Rugby) Marco LAZZARONI (Benetton Rugby) David SISI (Zebre Rugby Club) Nicolae Cristian STOIAN (Fiamme Oro Rugby) Maxime MBANDA’ (Zebre Rugby Club) Johan MEYER (Zebre Rugby Club) Sebastian Luke NEGRI DA OLEGGIO (Benetton Rugby) Jake POLLEDRI (Gloucester Rugby) Abraham STEYN (Benetton Rugby)
Backs Guglielmo PALAZZANI (Zebre Rugby Club) Stephen VARNEY (Gloucester Rugby) Marcello VIOLI (Zebre Rugby Club) Tommaso ALLAN (Benetton Rugby) Carlo CANNA (Zebre Rugby Club) Paolo GARBISI (Benetton Rugby) Luca MORISI (Benetton Rugby) Marco ZANON (Benetton Rugby) Mattia BELLINI (Zebre Rugby Club) Matteo MINOZZI (Wasps Rugby) Federico MORI (Kawasaki Calvisano Robot) Luca SPERANDIO (Benetton Rugby) Jacopo TRULLA (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano)