Rugby-Italy to keep faith with young guns despite sorry campaign

·2-min read
Six Nations Championship - Italy v Wales

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Italy will continue with their policy of bringing through young talent even though they completed yet another Six Nations campaign in bottom place and conceding almost 50 points per game, said coach Franco Smith.

Italy lost all five matches, finishing their campaign with a sorry 52-10 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday for a total of 239 conceded and ending in a disappointing performance with three yellow cards.

But Smith, appointed after the 2019 World Cup, said he had no alternative to his overhaul of the team this season and would stick with the young guns he has handed key roles to, including halfbacks Paolo Garbisi and Stephen Varney and centre Federico Mori.

"The players we blooded in this competition are the players that we have available. They are the young guys we need to take the road with and it’s been our misfortune that we’ve had to play in the Six Nations with 13 new players, a lot of them under 23," Smith said.

"I think a lot of countries come to that point but our turnover came a little bit later after the World Cup. We played well drilled sides this year with their players looking to be chosen for the (British & Irish) Lions.

"There are a lot of lessons that we take forward. There is a specific plan to uplift Italy's rugby in general but it's unfortunate we had to blood 13 new guys with an average age in this very competitive Six Nations.

"We will continue on the path. Why would we change? These guys have now gained all this experience and they definitely are five games better, five games more experienced and now when they go back to their clubs, they’ll know what is expected at this level. You cannot explain to someone in the changing room, what it is to play at this level," Smith added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)