Alessandro Troncon is a legend of Italian rugby, the only player to have accumulated a century of Test caps for the Azzurri until last year when he was joined by Andrea Lo Cicero, Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni.
The former scrum half now has a new challenge, nurturing the next generation of Italian players in his role as Under 20 coach and is relishing the opportunity to pass on his passion for the Game to his charges.
“It’s my first experience as a head coach,” explained Troncon, who ended his 13-year international career after Rugby World Cup 2007. “I’ve approached it calmly and I’m really excited about the Six Nations.
“After coaching with Italy and Zebre, I’ve a fantastic opportunity to bring my experience to the future stars of our sport and to improve myself as a coach.
“I love this game, so I’ll be trying to bring to the role all my experience, my enthusiasm, my knowledge and most of all my passion.”
Italy have lost their two opening matches in the Under 20 Six Nations, going down 26-9 in Wales and 34-0 in France last weekend. But Troncon wants to see his team “keep growing”.
Fight to the finish
“We will take to the field to win each game, but our aim is to improve our comprehension and to show our ambitions both as a team and as individuals.
“We must be conscious that we will often face stronger teams and without doubt the physical challenge will be the main one for us.
“We’re a team with a strong character and great fighting spirit, but we must improve from a tactical and strategic point of view.
“One aspect is very clear, this team will always fight until the final whistle. These guys will never give up.”
The Six Nations, though, is only one element of the year for Troncon with Italy building towards the IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand from 2-20 June.
Italy regained their place among the elite nations after winning the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 title in Chile and Troncon knows how important it is to be back on the JWC stage.
Preparing for JWC return
“As Italy compete in the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup at senior level it is crucial that our Under 20 players are used to competing at the highest possible level in order to be ready for the following step on the international stage.
“The Six Nations is a tough, seven-week competition with five difficult matches. In terms of physical and mental challenge it’s second to none and it will allow us to understand what is awaiting us in New Zealand.”
Italy will be hoping to avoid the heavy defeats suffered by JWRT 2012 winners USA at last year’s Junior World Championship in France, but Troncon is for now, just focused on the Six Nations.
“If we perform well in the Six Nations we will approach the Junior World Championship with much more confidence and it will have a crucial role in terms of performing well at JWC 2014.
Italy will face defending champions England, Australia and Argentina in Pool A at JWC 2014.
“I expect the sides to reflect the rugby approach of their senior teams. Australia will run the ball and will show an open rugby while Argentina will be more focused on the forwards game.
It will be a tough pool, as every pool is at the JWC, but for now we’re fully committed to the Six Nations.”