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Have we got a kicker? Can we defend? The Italian perspective on the Six Nations

Italian rugby blogger Dario Mazzocchi serves up the penultimate part of our Six Nations preview series.

Carlo Canna will start at out-half against France on Saturday.
Carlo Canna will start at out-half against France on Saturday.

1. How are Italy shaping up this year?

It’s going to be Brunel’s last Six Nations as head coach, and I honestly don’t have any idea about the Italian Union’s project for the present and the future.

The environment wasn’t nice before and after the RWC, and there was a lot of tension and friction between the team and the management. We’ve almost lost Parisse and we didn’t give former players like Diego Dominguez any consideration for a high profile role.

The question is — have we got a proper kicker in the squad, finally?

2. What will be considered a success for Jacques Brunel over the next two months?

He’s quitting the job, so reaching solidity and continuity during the tournament would be a success compared to the poor performances of the last matches.

I don’t think we have a chance to win the Six Nations, but at least we can leave a sign, maybe against England in Rome.

3. Who or what is your biggest concern in the Italian team?

Defense — Mallet worked hard on it, Brunel didn’t. We go blank mentally and recover when it’s too late.

4. Who will be your key player this season?

Same old Parisse?

I’m looking forward to seeing Andries van Schalkwyk with the Italian jersey on (yes, he’s from South Africa). He’s been doing well for Zebre since he arrived in Italy and now he has the chance to show his skills in international rugby.

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5. Which player, from any country, will be the surprise star of the tournament?

Dylan Hartley. Eddie Jones produced a miracle with Japan, and he could do it again.

6. How do you fancy your chances in the game against Ireland?

We’re playing Ireland in Dublin after a huge round of matches — Italy v Scotland and England v Ireland. Those matches will make the difference, in my opinion.

Coming to the Aviva Stadium on the back of a win and remembering the difficulties we faced in London in September could be two key elements, but I think Ireland are better than Italy overall.

7. And finally, who will win the Six Nations?

Scotland. I’m probably out of mind, but you know? They’re crazy so anything could happen.

– Read more from Dario Mazzocchi on Right Rugby or follow him on Twitter @RightRugby.

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