Sebastian Negri insists Italy are determined to show the World Cup was an aberration by delivering the upsets needed to make their Guinness Six Nations a success.
The Azzurri are overseen by new head coach Gonzalo Quesada, whose first assignment is plotting the downfall of England in Saturday’s opener at the Stadio Olimpico.
Quesada must repair the damage caused by heavy defeats to New Zealand and France – 96 points were leaked against the All Blacks – at last year’s World Cup, results that stalled the clear progress being made.
Wales and Australia were toppled in 2022 and in the ensuing Six Nations it was only a lack of conviction and accuracy that cost them in near misses against France and Scotland.
“The World Cup hurt, it really hurt. It was a setback but the good thing is that we’ve got the opportunity to make it right against some of the best teams in the world,” Negri told the PA news agency.
Italy have a win rate of only 11 per cent since joining the Six Nations and the powerful back row added: “It’s a tough tournament for us but what keeps us going is the belief that we can get the results we want.
“It’s hard. Judged on results, it is what it is at the end of the day. We have a responsibility in the Six Nations to get a couple of results and to keep on building on what we’ve built over the last 12-18 months.
“We had a few setbacks at the World Cup but we’ve come a long way in the way we play and we’re hoping to have a good, balanced Six Nations.
“We want to keep building because we’re on to something special, we have a really good group of young players who are gaining more and more experience.
“I wouldn’t be playing international rugby if I didn’t believe in the process we are going through.”
It would be a seismic upset for Italy to topple England for the first time in 31 meetings even if Steve Borthwick’s team are rebuilding after winning the bronze final at last autumn’s World Cup.
“England are a physical side with a really good set-piece and kicking game. We’ll have to match that and not go off the boil and start chucking the ball around,” Negri said.
“We need a balanced approach and if we underestimate them we’re in trouble. They showcased what they can do at the World Cup. They maybe don’t play the prettiest brand of rugby but they get results and that’s what counts.”