Having accounted for Tonga relatively comfortably, Italian coach Jacques Brunel was taking a realistic approach to this weekend’s clash with the All Blacks in Rome.
The plucky 28-23 win over World Cup upstarts Tonga will add to rugby’s growing popularity in Italy that will be highlighted by a likely sellout of the 70,000 capacity Olympic Stadium for the Sunday morning match against the All Blacks.
But with 11 tests against New Zealand and nothing to show in terms of history, this Italian side doesn’t appear capable of changing that.
Italy play the Wallabies the week after and that might be a more realistic target for them, especially if Australia cop a hiding on the back of last week’s mauling by France.
"It won't be an easy road, we know it," Brunel said of the fortnight ahead against the All Blacks and Wallabies.
“But because we are going to face teams that are ahead of us in the rankings, we must be focused on playing our game and compete from the beginning until the final whistle, so to keep the score close and increase our chances to win games."
The All Blacks arrived in Rome today after their big win over Scotland.
Brunel, a former assistant to Bernard Laoprte with France and also having experience with Perpignan, believes he is making progress.
The last Six Nations saw Italy avoid the wooden spoon for a fifth consecutive year.
"The analysis I make is that we turned our back on a difficult year and have made good progress.
"Our players had to face a change in coaching and the traditionally complicated post-World Cup year, but they did it quite nicely."
He wants more consistency from his side and that will be the challenge having got past a physical Tongan team. The win over Tonga took France to 4-5 under Brunel.
“We simply need to stop wasting chances," he said, lamenting narrow losses to powerhouse England and Argentina.
"This season we have played only minutes of what we have been working at in training since last November. We need to up our game and support the game-plan for the entire 80 minutes of play. This must be our mission for the next six months."
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