Aironi confident of strong showing
August 29, 2010
Italy's Josh Sole competes for a lineout against England in this year's Six Nations Championship © Getty Images
Magners League new boys Aironi are confident of holding their own in their first season alongside their celtic rivals.
Aironi and fellow Italian side Benetton Treviso will make their league bow next weekend having been granted a place amongst the Magners League stalwarts from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Both teams have been on a busy recruitment drive in the last few months backed by sizeable budgets aimed at producing competitive squads.
Italy international Josh Sole will be one of those lining up in the colours of Aironi who expect to welcome a crowd of around 6,000 for their opener against Ulster. And while admitting his side have it all to do to justify their inclusion he has issued a warning to those expecting to sweep the newcomers aside.
"There is still a gap between the Italians and the Welsh, the Irish and the Scottish," the 30-year-old flanker told the Wales on Sunday. "I think playing this competition, week-in, week out, is going to close the gap. We have a pretty big and heavy pack of forwards and we will be looking to use that strength.
"We have a lot of young Italian backs, but we will be playing positive rugby and it won't all be crash and bash. We won't be negative, but we expect some good results and to hum along quite nicely.
"Italians are very big on winning and they are very hard on you if don't win," added Sole. "If we can come somewhere around sixth in the league, that would be outstanding for our first season."
Sole has also welcomed the input of former Neath and Wales defence coach Rowland Phillips who has been charged with steering Aironi's first season in the league and the influence of fellow Azzurri international Fabio Ongaro and Salvatore Perugini.
"Rowland is a very good guy and we have put a lot of emphasis on defence in pre-season," said Sole. "Ongaro and Perugini have brought back a wealth of experience for us to use too. We know there will be a few bumps along the way."
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship