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The 'fun' Paolo Garbisi is having despite Italy facing wooden spoon

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images)

Fit-again Paolo Garbisi has insisted there is a great level of optimism now surrounding Italy even though they face finishing bottom of the Guinness Six Nations table this Saturday for the eighth season in a row. Not since 2015, when they defeated Scotland at Murrayfield to finish fifth, have the Italians avoided sixth and last place in the championship.

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However, despite their overall record showing just a single win in eight championships featuring seven consecutive wooden spoons, Garbisi explained that Italy are very much on an upward trajectory under Kieran Crowley and the players have been having fun with the highly skilled, all-out attack approach implemented by the Kiwi.

The Italians secured a losing bonus point in their opening round fixture versus France, the world’s number two ranked side, while they also gave the number one Ireland quite a scare when they met those teams in Rome last month.

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Facing Goliath | A story following Italy as they take on the mighty All Blacks | A Rugby Originals Documentary

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Facing Goliath | A story following Italy as they take on the mighty All Blacks | A Rugby Originals Documentary

They have since disappointingly lost to Wales at home but have one final shot at avoiding last place when they travel to play Scotland this Saturday in Edinburgh. The Scots are coming off the back of a six-day turnaround following the crushing disappointment of their Sunday loss to Ireland and won’t have the injured Stuart Hogg or Finn Russell available for the round five fixture.

“Italy haven’t played this brand of rugby before and it’s something different,” enthused Garbisi on this week’s Rugby Pod. “It was a challenge for us at the beginning but now it is fun because you see how you can really break defences with this system having all these opportunities, having all the players around you and having so many different options, you can see it actually works on the field. This is why it is fun.

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“Sometimes we probably are too risky as we play from our own half, sometimes it can be against us but it is fun to play in this type of system and this brand of rugby. It can be very positive and very useful for us. We have to just be better in terms of skill set, we need to be better on passes or some options, but it is so fun and it is the right way.”

Prior to last March’s breakthrough win over Wales, their first success in the tournament since 2015, there was much public debate about whether Italy deserved their place in the tournament with Georgia looking for entry.

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That argument has been largely silenced by the entertaining brand of rugby the Italians are now producing under Crowley, but Garbisi wants the finishing touches to materialise and his team to start registering wins in a World Cup year where they play minnows Namibia and Uruguay before encountering New Zealand and France.

Asked if something special was brewing in Italian rugby, Garbisi said: “I hope so but we just need to put everything together in order to get the wins because at the end of the day, this is what matters. Yes, we can be pleased because we are performing really well in most parts of the game, but we need to get the wins now.

“We are still in that situation where people can say, ‘Yeah, Italy played good’ or ‘They are there for the most part of the game’ or ‘They are not that far away’. But I feel like we need to get some positive results now, not only this chat about how good we play.”

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