Italy U20 group
Italy’s age graders continue to impress.

Massimo Brunello's U20s beat world champions France 22-18 just weeks before the Six Nations gets underway.

Victory against France in the last test before Italy give a Championship welcome to England in Treviso on February 2nd could be seen as the perfect warm-up for a squad that has already achieved much.

The final scoreline of 22-18 was the result of a muddy dogfight in torrential rain at the Zaffanella Stadium in Viadana. The performance provided plenty of good food for thought for Brunello and his staff. This Italy team, after two incredible seasons, is out to exceed the tag of ‘biggest surprise package’ in the upcoming Championship.

In the first half, the Azzurrini scored first through hooker – and local boy – Nicholas Gasperini, before their trans-alpine rivals responded through an inch-perfect cross-field kick from fly-half Axel Desperes for wing Vincent Rocher to score.

In the second half, Italy were once again ahead at the end of the first quarter with a penalty from fullback Francesco Imberti, who was able to capitalise on the physical work and offloading of his teammate Marco Scalabrin on the wing – who himself had previously been denied a try due to a marginal forward pass.

This was followed by an exchange of penalties between between Desperes and Italian replacement Lorenzo Casilio, leaving the outcome in the balance until the final moments.

Finding the line after a series of close pick-and-gos was Italian captain, number eight Jacopo Botturi, which further justified his Player of the Match honour.

In the last charge at the home team’s line, with Italy down to fourteen men following a yellow card to Alberto Lombardo, beautiful hands from the French midfield allowed Desperes to put fullback Óscar Cortés away at the corner.

The late score failed to diminish the joy for Italy, who took the spoils, and with it renewed conviction that they can make a concerted charge into the upcoming Six Nations.