Italy Under 20: What remains of this Six Nations?

Italy Under 20: What remains of this Six Nations?
Italy Under 20: What remains of this Six Nations?

A summary of what the Azzurri showed in the five matches of the category Championship

Italy Under 20: What remains of this Six Nations? (Ph. Federugby)

It has been an intense month, to say the least, for the Under 20 boys, who are competing in Cardiff in the unprecedented Six Nations category in one place (all matches at Arms Park).

Five games that have allowed the most promising players of the European Tier 1 to finally return to the field with continuity on the stage prodromal to the international one.

Italy, in this context, did not disfigure. Indeed, beyond a series of details to be filed and some things to improve, the Six Nations of Italy Under 20 can generally be considered positive.

On the other hand, some details prevented even more important results (1 record victory and 4 defeats, albeit all arrived in the sprint): often the necessary coldness was lacking to give the final blow to the opponents when necessary, too much frenzy led to avoidable errors and not always the tactical choices but above all the strategic ones from the field turned out to be right (for example, not placing against Wales or insisting with the scrum against France and then taking a kick against in attack) , but these are things on which we can absolutely work to allow this group – albeit unpaired, since unfortunately there will be no World Cup – to continue to grow and add quality to our movement.

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Continuity and defense

Perhaps the main “novelty” brought by the Brunello boys. Italy has shown itself to be competitive and always in the game in all 5 matches played: even with some physiological bending, the azzurrini have never left the matches, but have been able to suffer and hold on even in difficult situations (in 14 and then even in 13 against England) without “hurrying”, rarely conceding easy points to the opponents.

It is no coincidence that Italy was the only team – together with Ireland – to seriously put England in the Grand Slam in serious difficulty for 80 ′ (France had lasted a while) holding on even when the match risked to slip away towards the embarkation. The azzurrini closed the tournament with a positive points difference (+4) and the second best defense of the tournament, behind only England: this would be enough to make us understand the extent of the tournament played.

The depth of the group

Having to play 5 games within 6 days of each other, only 15 level players could not be enough. Of course, Massimo Brunello has been consistently entrusted, from the 1st minute, to a rather stable framework in terms of ownership, but the Azzurrini group has shown that they can keep the quality and competitiveness (almost) unchanged while changing formation: mixing the cards on the table Italy has always been able to play more or less on par, with the bench giving its contribution by adding (often) quality in the second half. In particular, in some key roles such as the first line or the median, while changing the order of the addends, the result has (almost) never changed: after all, if when you release Neculai you can put Hasa in, and vice versa, it becomes everything. much easier.

The static phases

Scrum: well, very well at times, with more solutions in each role and more players who have shown themselves. First of all Ion Neculai, devastating against England and always with superlative consistency over the course of the competition, and then Hasa who in the same role has always kept the blue standard at very high levels. Same thing on the other side with Rizzoli and Spanish, while the two hookers – Baldelli and Di Bartolomeo – worked fairly well in closed and open fields, finding some more difficulties in managing the throw in touch (even if the responsibilities are to be shared also with jumpers). Perhaps, the numbers 2 sin in mere physical structure to be able to impact even upstairs, but you can work on it.

The throw-in with the throw in their favor, on the other hand, was probably the Achilles heel of this national team, as well as the percentage from the pitch and indiscipline. Many, too many unforced errors on throws that are sometimes not contested by the opponents, in key match situations. Much better in defense, with Nicola Piantella who was a real thorn in the side for the opponent’s throw-ins.

Median and trocar

If the package has made his, the backward department was not far behind, indeed. Excellent plays in attack – the feeling between several of the backs is brilliant, able to consistently propose effective combinations -, but also considerable concreteness – albeit with still some tackles that are too wrong – in defense. Simone Gesi represented the explosiveness and unpredictability of the Azzurri: never leave a stray ball in their hands, because it can become devastating. On the other hand, Flavio Pio Vaccari was no exception, with the beautiful ride against Scotland to seal a high-level tournament. Together with them, united by the ability to beat (at least) the first opponent, there is also a superb Tommaso Menoncello, always present both from the winger and from the second center.

Speaking of centers, lots of tackles, lots of wood but also lots of quality in attack for Filippo Drago, one of the best of the Azzurri expedition. Fundamental both in defense and in the offensive phase, the permit center of the Lions has often put big questions on the opponent’s defensive line, alternating corrosive charges in the first person (often absorbing more than one man, then opening the space for the splinters of our enlarged triangle) , a good transmission of the oval, as well as a more than valid use of the foot. Speaking of the enlarged triangle: Lorenzo Pani had an amazing tournament. Starting as a reserve, he managed to win the starting spot with a great game against France, showing a powerful foot and excellent legs ball in hand. Finally, we cannot forget the work that Fabio Schiabel has done in defense every time he has been called into question, especially against England.

If the back department managed to perform well, merit must also be given to the median: Albanese and Garbisi, while both experiencing some bad moments, gave rhythm and quality, guaranteeing together a good contribution for the whole 80 minutes. The first – player of the match against Scotland – has shown to have a great engine and a good managerial reliability – albeit with sometimes excessive frenzy -, while if from the point of view of the rhythm Garbisi can rise further with shots on the other hand already shown to have a very reliable foot from the base, a fundamental one in which the Italian scrum halfs have not always excelled.

At the opening, Marin showed excellent ability to attack the line in first person. On the other hand, errors from the pitch weighed heavily, and unfortunately at these levels it becomes difficult to compete without a reliable player. The fact that different solutions were tried in the various matches – Marin, Albanese, Garbisi, Ferrarin – makes us understand how much the problem of kicks has weighed in the final result of the azzurrini. Only Ferrarin against England proved reliable, and the points brought by his foot proved essential to stay in the game until the end.

Breakdown e disciplina

Cross and delight of our national team. The Azzurrini were furious and combative at the meeting points – sometimes too much – slowing down various possessions of the opponents in the red zone, when defending in the trenches – even with professional fouls, intelligent in certain emergency situations -, and taking away their lead. The most active in this sense was Lorenzo Cannone, but the whole third line made a significant contribution, with the two flankers Vintcent and captain Andreani as well. Often, however, this extraordinary rate of activity at the meeting point, spotted by excessive enthusiasm, has turned into out-of-control indiscipline, with too many “free” fouls granted, far from situations of real adversary danger.

It happened in particular against the Welsh (19 fouls of which 7 in the groups), with the blue who struggled to adapt to the referee meter. But it also happened in the other 4 games: 12 fouls (5 in the breakdown) against France, 13 (including 9 in the breakdown) also granted in the resounding victory against Scotland, 17 (10 in the groups) against Ireland and 16 against England, including 5 in the breakdown. Data that complicates the possibility of playing it against teams of this level, in case they have a consistency even only in line with yours.

In conclusion, at the end of this Six Nations under 20 the Azzurrini, albeit with a bitter taste in their mouth for what could have been and was not (fourth place within reach, perhaps even third) can be said to be promoted: the results obtained from Italy, and above all the services offered, must represent a starting point for continuing the evolution of these young people, with the long-term goal of being competitive also on the international senior stage. Likewise, all the mistakes made will be analyzed in detail and will have to represent one of the focuses of the work of Franco Smith, new head of the high level: to find the best operational strategy to consolidate the good, and to file every aspect that has shown some gaps, even the smallest ones, because upstairs are not allowed.

Francesco Palma

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