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Alarm bells for England as Italy reconstructs

INTERVIEW: Italy head into the Six Nations as rank outsiders following a dismal World Cup.

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However, flyhalf Tommaso Allan believes they have the talent to turn things around as they prepare to kick off against England in Rome on Saturday.

“I think we’re capable of doing well in the tournament this year,” he told AFP.

“We have some really dangerous three-quarters and forwards who are good with the ball.

“Now we’ve got a new coach and a new staff,” adds the 30-year-old.

“We’re a team in reconstruction. We’ll have to adapt, and quickly.”

It is fighting talk from a nation that has struggled since the day it joined the old Five Nations in 2000.

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Italy have never come close to winning the title, their highest finish coming in 2013 when they came fourth after wins over France and Ireland.

On the flip side, they have taken the wooden spoon in nine of the last 10 years with just 13 victories in 120 matches. Since 2013 they have won twice.

The World Cup was even more catastrophic as they were hammered 7-60 by France and, close your eyes if you are squeamish, 17-96 by New Zealand.

“I joined up with Perpignan as quickly as I could after the World Cup,” says Allan whose uncle John Allan represented Scotland in the 1991 Five Nations and World Cup before playing for his native South Africa.

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“I wanted to move on. Those two defeats were a lesson to players who thought we were better than we were.”

Allan adds the rider that Italy had “the youngest squad” at the World Cup but the results speak for themselves.

Since then coach Kieran Crowley has given way to the former Argentina flyhalf Gonzalo Quesada whose track record includes a Top 14 title with Stade Francais and taking Jaguares to the Super Rugby final.

“He’s got a good CV,” says Allan.

“Gonzalo has a slightly different point of view to Kieran, a little more focused, but he also wants us to keep our DNA and that’s a good thing.”

‘We can do it’

Italy also have a squad which, even with seven in the Top 14 and three in the English Premiership, is largely based in Italy, many playing for Treviso who are currently second behind Leinster in the United Rugby Championship.

“The success of Treviso this season may enable us to go one step further,” says Allan.

“There are 17 [Treviso players] in the Italian squad. They’re confident.”

Allan brushes off the calls for Italy to be replaced in the Six Nations by Georgia or Portugal which became especially loud during a nightmare 36-game losing streak from 2016 to 2022.

“I don’t think about it, it doesn’t bother me,” he says. “There’s been less talk about it over the last two years.”

Italy’s ambitions do not yet reach to winning a first Six Nations title but Allan, who has 79 caps to his name, is eager to rack up at least one win on home soil.

“I’d like to win a match in Italy, in Rome, because the only match I’ve won with the national side [in the Six Nations] was in Scotland in 2015,” he says.

“I hope we can do it against England or Scotland.

“All the players and coaches have changed a lot. It’s always like that after a World Cup, so we’ll see. But I think we can do it this year.”

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