Italy hungry for success at JWRT 2013

(IRB.COM) Friday 5 April 2013
 Italy hungry for success at JWRT 2013
Will Italy's experiences in the Six Nations give them an edge come JWRT 2013?

Italy Under 20 coach Gianluca Guidi is under no illusions as to how crucial it is for his charges to win the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 in Chile to secure an immediate return to the Junior World Championship for next year.

Relegated from the Championship after losing all five matches in South Africa last year, Italy find themselves in a familiar position, having won the Trophy in 2010 to return to the elite tier under the captaincy of current Azzurri centre Tommaso Benvenuti.

“It’s crucial for us (to win JWRT 2013),” admitted Guidi, a former Italian scrum half. “The Union’s youth project requires the Under 20 side to be involved in the Junior World Championship, which is an extremely important step in a young international player’s development.

“The Under 20s are extremely important to Italian rugby and I’m confident it will become more and more important in the future. It is the ramp to the PRO12 and international rugby for our players.

“Generally speaking it is a key step in an international player’s development.

“All the Italian internationals born after 1988 have attended the FIR’s academies and had crucial experiences at either the JWRT or JWC. Seeing some of these guys now playing for the Azzurri gives an extra motivation to our Under 20 players.”

Hard work is rewarded

Italy, unlike the other seven teams preparing for JWRT 2013 from 28 May to 9 June, have had the luxury of playing in an ultra-competitive Under 20 Six Nations over the last couple of months, losing four and drawing their final match with Ireland.

“The team has made some good performances but, in particular against England, we suffered from a physical point of view. We had good indications from the France and Ireland matches but we’re still searching for our real identity and we’re working to find it ahead of the Junior World Rugby Trophy.

“In the France and Ireland matches I was happy with the quality of our rugby, we tried to impost our rugby (on the opposition) and this is what we’re targeting to do in Chile as well. We can build on the last game against Ireland as we approach the JWRT.

“We will be forced to win four games in a row there to reach our goal.

“Playing the best will help us to improve, so obviously the Six Nations legacy will be crucial. Now we have two months off, the guys will play for their team in the RaboDirect PRO12 and Eccellenza Championship.

“I hope they’ve learned the lesson from the Six Nations campaign – hard work is always paid back.”

Tough task awaits Italy

Guidi, though, is not sure that playing the five European sides bound for France to contest Junior World Championship 2013, will actually give them an advantage over their rivals in Antofagasta.

“Honestly speaking, I don’t think so. The JWRT is a difficult, tough competition and as I said we must win four games in a row because it is crucial for us to return to the Junior World Championship,” he admitted.

“It won’t be easy, we will need to be at our best as Japan, Tonga and Canada have hugely improved over the last seasons and they’re on the same level from a physical point of view. I’m pretty sure that the pack’s strength will be the most important weapon that the best team at the JWRT will be focused on.”

Italy have been drawn in Pool A with hosts Chile, African champions Namibia and Portugal, who will get their first taste of JWRT action after beating previous participants Georgia to claim a first European title last year.

The Azzurrini must top this pool to reach the final and battle it out with the Pool B winner for the right to take their place at JWC 2014 in New Zealand, replacing the team finishing bottom of the 2013 competition in France.

“We don’t know very much of them yet, but I can be sure Namibia will be extremely consistent physically and will have fast and elusive backs, while Portugal – which has a strong Sevens background – will display a very high-paced rugby.

“Last but not least, Chile is hosting the competition and will be at its best in front of their home crowd.”