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'Take a look at the archives': Italy star sends message to critics

SPOTLIGHT: Ange Capuozzo is best known for his attacking forays down the touchline but the Italian fullback showed the other side of his game when he leapt to the defence of Italy’s record in the Six Nations.

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After two defeats in their opening matches, Italy head to Lille on Sunday to play France facing the possibility of adding another Six Nations wooden spoon to the 18 they have registered since they joined the old Five Nations in 2000.

Further failure would undoubtedly add fuel to the arguments of critics who question their right to an automatic place in Europe’s top international competition, ahead of the likes of Georgia and Portugal.

“The Six Nations has always been a closed league so it’s not meant to be up and down,” the 24-year-old Capuozzo told AFP.

“It’s a very, very old competition and I would ask critics to take a look at the archives to see the low periods that certain nations have experienced. France in particular, Scotland.”

The stats are not kind to the Italians: of the 120 matches they had played in the competition up to this season, Italy won just 13 and drew one.

According to Statista, this is by far the worst record of any nation in the tournament, the next being Scotland who won 39 of their first 120.

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“Yes, Italy have been in the Six Nations for just over 20 years,” said Capuozzo.

“That may seem like a long time, but it’s also a very short time in terms of experience of this competition.

“It’s not enough to create a real policy, a real change in culture in our country, to get children into rugby schools earlier, to attract more people to the stadiums.

“It’s a process that takes time and I think that from where Italy started, it’s been a long, hard road to get to where we are today.”

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Italy suffered a chastening World Cup at the end of 2023, losing 17-60 to France and, humiliatingly for a Tier One team, 17-96 to New Zealand.

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‘Extraordinary moment’

Despite that the Toulouse flier insists the World Cup was a high point of his career.

“Even though it took an enormous amount of energy out of us, both physically and psychologically, it remains an extraordinary moment in a player’s career and I have nothing but good memories of it,” said Capuozzo for whom those big defeats were also of benefit.

“It’s a moment that makes us grow in our approach to our sport, our preparation and our motivation.”

Italy’s new reality, under new coach Gonzalo Quesada, began encouragingly as they took England to the wire in Rome before losing 24-27 in their Six Nations opener.

After that came a less encouraging 0-36 hammering from Ireland in Dublin which puts even more pressure on the French Test in Lille.

Capuozzo, who was born and bred in France and qualified for Italy through his paternal grandparents, plays down the added pressure of playing on ‘home soil’ and trying not to sing along to the Marseilleise.

“I think I’m past the emotional stage,” he said.

“I’ve already played France twice, in the Six Nations and in the World Cup. Even though I’ve ticked it off, of course, and it will always be a match apart, I’m giving it the same importance now as the others.”

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