Italian rugby is going from strength to strength at present, whether that be the progressions Conor O’Shea has made with the national side or the advances in the domestic game.
O’Shea was named head coach of Italy in 2016 and has set about a revolution in Italian rugby, changes that can be seen in the improved seasons for Benetton Treviso and Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 in 2017/18.
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Of course, there is a team working together with O’Shea to bring about change, from assistants Mike Catt and Brendan Venter to Irishman Stephen Aboud, who works on player pathways.
Another member of this team is David Fonzi, a video analyst for the Azzurri who worked with previous head coaches Nick Mallett and Jacques Brunel before O’Shea, and he spoke to Italian website Onrugby about his work.
“I started working with Pierre Berbizier’s staff in the Tests in November 2006,” explained Fonzi.
“At the 2007 World Cup I worked with Simone Santamaria, the video analyst of the time, then the FIR asked me if I was interested in becoming responsible for the video analysis of the national team.
“We now follow the standards, and we have the same tools and the same capabilities as New Zealand, Wales, Ireland and others. For example, the software we use for analysis, Sportscode, is the same used by all the top teams.
“In addition to Sportscode, we also use a web platform called IQUII, which allows us to have a picture of the depth of our teams, from youth teams to the first team.
“In the scrum we can see the drive directions, the angle of the shoulders and the back, while we can also see the angle of the upper limbs of the hooker at the moment when the ball is launched and the speed of arrival and exit.
“Moreover, with Sportscode we can analyse the opponent in a schematic way, creating a database with the phases of the game with the most characteristic things we can expect from them.”
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Advances in Italy are not just being strived for with video analysis but also in strength and conditioning, with Pete Atkinson now looking after this field for Zebre, Benetton and Italy after having worked with Saracens and the English Institute of Sport.
Benetton won 11 games in the Guinness PRO14 last season, only one less than Ulster, and a definite improvement on five, three and three in their previous campaigns – clear signs of progression.
For the national side we’ve witnessed the breakthroughs of Matteo Minozzi and Sebastian Negri in the 2018 Six Nations, with Fonzi working behind the scenes in the hunt for further developments.
Asked who are the most difficult teams to prepare for, he explained: “Against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga the difficulties concern the players who will play, you’re not sure who will play, and they have a totally anarchic and instinctive game plan.
“I focus more on the general game, I analyse both the static phases and the open game, while Simonluca (Pastore, his assistant) takes care of the game time and data in relation to possession and territory.
“At the interval we have 15 minutes in the locker room where we try to give information with an effective selectivity principle.”
Italy face Ireland in Chicago, USA, on November 3 before fixtures against Georgia, Australia and New Zealand this autumn and will start their 2019 Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 2.