Ian Keatley says that Benetton have designs on delivering silverware after a promising few seasons for the Italian side. Keatley joined the Italians last year following eight years with Munster, and says there is no shortage of ambition in a team that has made some major strides in recently.
For so long the whipping boys of the Pro14 – in the 2016/17 season they lost 17 of their 22 games – Benetton sat fifth in Conference B when the Pro14 season was suspended earlier this year.
A third place finish in their conference a year previously saw them travel to Thomond Park for the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly edged out 15-13 by Munster.
The Champions Cup has proven more difficult to break, with the Italians picking up just one win in a difficult Pool campaign this year after being pitted against Leinster, Northampton Saints and Lyon.
But Keatley says the squad are determined to keen building and improving.
“Benetton experienced a great season the year before I arrived, the guys made it to the quarter-finals of the Pro14,” he told the club’s website.
“We were in the Champions Cup last season, we were in a group with three top teams, Leinster, Northampton and Lyon. It was a very difficult group, but we want to try again to qualify for the quarter-finals (of the Pro14) and start from there.
“We are an ambitious team, we want to win something, so we will try again to enter the quarter-finals of the playoffs, then semi-final and final.
“We hope to win something, but the first goal is to reach the quarter-finals.”
Benetton have met that ambition by contining to bolster their squad in a bid to fuse experience with youth.
“There have been some important purchases, such as Callum (Braley) who has a lot of experience with Gloucester or Joaquin Riera who was a permit player and is now always with us,” Keatley continued.
“Several guys who were part of the Italy Under-20 are also training with us. It seems to me that everyone is trying to raise the level, we must give them time to learn but we are trying to help them get to know the world of Benetton Rugby.
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“There is a good mix of young and experienced players.”
Keatley, who won the last of his seven caps for Ireland in 2017, added that he is loving life in Italy since making the move last year.
“I arrived in Treviso with my family last summer, it is going very well.
“For me it was a total change, leaving Ireland to live in Italy where the weather is very hot, it took a while to adapt to this.
“Now it is 30 degrees every morning, getting up at seven in the morning and dripping with sweat is a nice change, I am enjoying this new experience.”
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