Since Italy joined the Guinness Men’s Six Nations back in 2000, they have been the unwilling recipients of the wooden spoon on 18 occasions, including in each of the last eight editions.

There have been ups and downs, but just one victory across their last 42 matches in the Championship tells an undeniable tale of woe. Overall, 2023 was another of those challenging years, but if you look a little deeper at their results and the personnel coming through then there are real signs of optimism.

Although they lost all five games last season, none of those losses came by more than 17 points. Their average points difference per game was -12, and only once since 2009 have they had a better rate (-7.2 in 2013).

Another promising stat highlights their performance in the second half of games. Last season they won the second half in two of their matches (vs England at Twickenham and vs Wales), drew another (vs France) and lost two by small margins (7 vs Ireland, 6 vs Scotland).

This tenacity and fight across the entire 80 minutes will surely start paying off and that record of one win in 42 will start to correct itself as they pick up the results their performances deserve.

Playing Style

Over recent years Italy have significantly developed their talent pool specifically in their options for ball carrying. This can be seen in their willingness to keep hold of possession and trust these players to progress the team up the pitch. Of their carries in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, 33% were dominant, the best rate of any side.

In the 2023 Championship, they chose to carry their way out of their own 22 56% of the time, the highest rate of any side. They supported this tactic by rucking well, having the quickest average attacking ruck speed (3s) of anyone in the 2023 Six Nations campaign.

The Azzurri also looked to put width on the ball; 60% of their phases saw them move the ball 10+ metres (horizontally) from their last ruck, the highest rate of all sides.

Italy Six Nations Team Preview - Width in 2023

There is a new head coach in charge of Italy now in Gonzalo Quesada, and recent comments suggest this bravado in attack could be tempered by a slightly more defensive outlook.

“I like the ideas Italy have put on the pitch recently. I also have an attacking philosophy and I don’t think we will change that. However, we must improve at exploiting that in the right areas of the pitch while developing the fundamentals of the game. It’s on this base we can build: the defence, with more pragmatic exits from our own half, then at the end comes the attack.” He said, speaking to Rugby Pass.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Italy showed good collision strength at the 2023 Six Nations, achieving high dominance in both the tackle (8%) and carry (33%). That said, their gainline success rate (48%) was the lowest of any side in the Championship as was their rate of committing 2+ tacklers per carry (49%).

Their propensity to attack from deep denied them regular forays into the opposition 22 (8.4 per game – second fewest), while they struggled to convert the chances they did have into points. An average of 1.7 points per 22 visit was the second worst of any side behind the Welsh (1.6).

One potential flaw in the Italian’s attack last year was their predictability; 92% of their play went to the open side, the highest rate of any side, while 60% went wider than 10m too, maybe making it easier to defend against, shut down and turnover. In fact, only the English (14.8) conceded more turnovers per game than Italy last year (14.4).  

Star Players

Tommaso Menoncello burst onto the international scene in 2022 and has featured in all the outside back positions for the Azzurri since. His 2023 season was cruelly cut short ahead of the Rugby World Cup with a bicep injury, but he’s back and raring to pick up where he left off.

He has five tries across his nine starts for Italy so far, managing nine clean breaks and 23 defenders beaten across those games too. The 21-year-old even managed to beat six defenders in a scintillating 30-minute cameo against the Springboks in 2022.

In the 2023 Six Nations, Menoncello was one of just five players to play 240 minutes who managed both gainline success and dominant carry rates of 50%+ (also Juan Ignacio Brex, Huw Jones, Yoram Moefana and George North). This elite ball carrying all over the pitch could be just what Italy need to kickstart their 2024 campaign.

Tommaso Menoncello - Carry Metres

To back this up they also have plenty of grunt up front and one of their stars in the pack is Danilo Fischetti. The prop hits hard in both attack and defence. In the 2023 Championship, he made the most dominant tackles (10) by any player and also beat the joint-most defenders of any prop (8, same as Ellis Genge).

Italy Six Nations 2024 Fixtures:

3 February: Italy v England – Stadio Olimpico, Rome

11 February: Ireland v Italy – Aviva Stadium, Dublin

25 February: France v Italy – Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille

9 March: Italy v Scotland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome

16 March: Wales v Italy – Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Italy Six Nations Squad (as of 30 January):


Pietro CECCARELLI (Perpignan, 31 caps)
Danilo FISCHETTI (Zebre Parma, 36 caps)
Matteo NOCERA (Zebre Parma, debutant)
Luca RIZZOLI (Zebre Parma, debutant)
Mirco SPAGNOLO (Benetton Rugby, debutant)
Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Benetton Rugby, 16 caps)
Gianmarco LUCCHESI (Benetton Rugby, 17 caps)
Marco MANFREDI (Zebre Parma, 3 caps)
Giacomo NICOTERA (Benetton Rugby, 18 caps)
Niccolò CANNONE (Benetton Rugby, 36 caps)
Edoardo IACHIZZI (Benetton Rugby, 6 caps)
Federico RUZZA (Benetton Rugby, 49 caps)
Andrea ZAMBONIN (Zebre Parma, 3 caps)
Lorenzo CANNONE (Benetton Rugby, 16 caps)
Riccardo FAVRETTO (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)
Alessandro IZEKOR (Benetton Rugby, rookie)
Michele LAMARO (Benetton Rugby, 33 caps)
Sebastian NEGRI (Benetton Rugby, 52 caps)
Ross VINTCENT (Exeter, debutant)
Manuel ZULIANI (Benetton Rugby, 17 caps)


Alessandro GARBISI (Benetton Rugby, 7 caps)
Martin PAGE-RELO (Lyon, 4 caps)
Stephen VARNEY (Gloucester, 24 caps)
Tommaso ALLAN (Perpignan, 79 caps)
Paolo GARBISI (Montpellier, 31 caps)
Juan Ignacio BREX (Benetton Rugby, 30 caps)
Tommaso MENONCELLO (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)
Federico MORI (Bayonne, 13 caps)
Marco ZANON (Benetton Rugby, 16 caps)
Pierre BRUNO (Zebre Parma, 15 caps)
Ange CAPUOZZO (Stade Toulousain, 16 caps)
Monty IOANE (Lyon 25 caps)
Simone GESI (Zebre Parma, 1 cap)
Lorenzo PANI (Zebre Parma, 5 caps)

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