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'We have had a great tournament, but can do better than this'

By Simon Thomas
Michele Lamaro of Italy celebrates victory after defeating Wales during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Wales and Italy at the Principality Stadium on March 16, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Federugby via Getty Images)

As far as Michele Lamaro is concerned, the future has already arrived for Italian rugby.

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The inspirational flanker has just captained the Azzurri to their best ever Six Nations campaign, with wins over Scotland and Wales, plus a draw away to France which could so easily have been another victory.

It’s taken them up to eighth in the world rankings, above both Australia and Wales, equalling their highest previous position.

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Openside Lamaro has played a pivotal role, putting in no fewer than 103 tackles during the Championship, setting a new tournament record, surpassing the 100 by Scotland lock Johnny Gray in 2018. He is the very definition of leading from the front.

This season has also seen Italy’s two BKT URC teams take significant strides forward.

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Lamaro’s Benetton Rugby have picked up ten wins and a draw from their 15 matches in all competitions, putting them firmly in the mix for a BKT URC play-off spot and securing a Challenge Cup last 16 tie at home to the Emirates Lions.

Meanwhile, Zebre Rugby have already comfortably surpassed their points tally from the whole of last season in the league and have been far more competitive, as demonstrated by them collecting eight bonus points.

Now the aim of both sides will be to build on the success of the national team, with Zebre having a big BKT URC game at home to table-topping Leinster Rugby this weekend and Benetton travelling to the Scarlets.

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These are special days to be involved in Italian rugby, as the Rome-raised Lamaro confirms.

“Over the last ten years, I think I have heard thousands of times that we have to work for the future and that there is a bright future,” he says.

“Honestly, I am sick of that. I want to live the moment, we want to live now.

“We want to win now and be competitive now, not tomorrow, not the next day.

“This is the main thing we need to improve in our heads.

“Obviously it’s tough in Italy because we haven’t had a winning culture, so you need to create a strong base and an environment where young players can express themselves in the best way.

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“The aim for our clubs and for the national team is to give them that chance. We have gained experience and we can share it with the youngest ones.

“So, if you tell me Italy has a bright future, I will tell you yes, but tomorrow is the day that we want to win again.”

After coming tantalisingly close to beating France in Lille, with Paolo Garbisi’s last-gasp penalty striking an upright, Italy then beat Scotland 31-29 before defeating Wales 24-21 in Cardiff.

“This is everything for us,” said the 25-year-old Lamaro following Saturday’s triumph at the Principality Stadium.

“This is the reason why we step onto the pitch every single day and the reason why we work that hard.

“Every time we play, we want to win and achieve these sort of results.

“I am just proud of my team. We have worked so hard in the last few years.

“We want to achieve even more now. We have had a great tournament, but can do better than this.

“We have to be a lot more consistent to get the respect we want.

“The emotion I feel is we have achieved one of our goals since the start of the season.

“I want to keep on winning and keep on this wave that we are on at the moment. Now we have got a job to do with our clubs.”

Credit: URC

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