Italy prepares for Six Nations campaign

Italy face Ireland in first Rome match

Italy's Six Nations rugby campaign gets off to a tough start when the Azzurri take on reigning champions Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico on 7 February.

Italian coach Jacques Brunel will be keen to improve on his team's performance last year, when Italy finished last in the tournament, winning the dreaded "wooden spoon".

The Frenchman, in his fourth year as coach, has named four uncapped players in his initial 30-man squad ahead of the curtain-raiser against Ireland: Giulio Bisegni, Michele Visentin, Simone Ragusi and Marcello Violi.

The rest of the team comprises members of the autumn international's squad, including captain Sergio Parisse and 35-year-old flanker Mauro Bergamasco, who first played for his country in the Six Nations tournament in 2000.

Italy kicks off the 16th edition of the annual rugby union championship by playing Ireland on 7 February at 15.30 in the Stadio Olimpico, followed by a trip to Twickenham, on 14 February, where the Italians faces an English side that they have never beaten.

Italy then takes on the Scots in Murrayfield on 28 February, and finishes with two home games against France, on 15 March, and Wales, on 21 March.

There are still tickets available for the Rome games but those unable to get to the stadium can watch the matches in many of Rome’s pubs such as the Fiddler’s Elbow, Scholars Lounge or the rugby-mad Shamrock.

For full fixtures see Six Nations website.