Zebre head coach Michael Bradley believes that good times might just be around the corner for Italian rugby.
Conor O’Shea’s Italy may have finished bottom of the table in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations but they were only narrowly beaten 29-27 by Scotland in Round Six.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Under-20s defeated both Ireland and Scotland en route to a fourth-placed finish in the Under-20s Six Nations while earlier this month, the Italians defeated England during the U18 Six Nations Festival in Cardiff.
“I thought Italy were more competitive this year, especially the last two matches,” said Bradley.
“They had a good chance to win both and really against Scotland they should be really disappointed they didn’t win it.
“That’s progress and Italy, age-group-wise, are a young side as well.
“(Benetton) Treviso are going well this year – this weekend will be an interesting match (against Leinster in the PRO14).
“A lot of the Italian players play with Treviso and they’re getting the taste for victory.”
Former Ireland interim chief Bradley believes that Italian rugby should look to develop in the same way the game did has homeland.
The ex-Connacht and Edinburgh coach also hopes that Zebre can play their part in producing talent for the Azzurri.
He said: “That’s the process. I mean if you go back 10-11 years here (in Ireland), you have the same situation, so the blueprint for gradual improvement and success is not one week after the next – it’s over a period of time.
“Ireland, going back to the start of the European Cup matches 20 years ago; we weren’t winning too many matches then.
“You just learn to win and get better and get your recruitment right. It’s the blueprint we’re trying to follow.
“There are some structural problems Italy need to get over before the talent flows straight to the franchises and national team. There is a solution there – it’s just a matter of executing.”