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Brunel aims to lead Italy to among top 6 nations

Updated: November 03, 2011, 08:36


BOLOGNA, Italy(AP) Newly appointed Italy coach Jacques Brunel wants his team to become a contender to win the Six Nations within three years and then join the top six rugby nations in the world.

The Frenchman was presented Thursday after signing a four-year deal to replace Nick Mallett, whose contract ended after the Rugby World Cup.

"The squad has potential, they have been progressing now for several years. I hope I can continue that in the next few years,'' Brunel said. "In the next two or three years we need to be in a position to win the Six Nations, and then we want to be in the top six nations in the world.

"Obviously there's a lot of work to be done. We have to keep the strengths that we have, develop them. But I strongly believe in the potential of this squad.''

Italy won two of four games at the World Cup in New Zealand but failed to make it past the group stage after losing its final game against Ireland.

Brunel is keen to focus on youth to ensure the team does better in four years' time at the tournament in England.

"We have to have confidence in players we have, as well as working with the clubs and young players for the future,'' he said. "So today we'll exploit the strengths we have, always staying with the mentality that we have to prepare for tomorrow.

"There has to be a collaboration between all the levels of Italian rugby to let us have results now and in the future. The attention the clubs give the young players now will be crucial for Italy in the future. We have to try to exploit to the max the potential of the players. I want players who are ambitious. We have to exploit the strengths we have and find a game that works best to our resources.''

Italian Rugby Federation president Giancarlo Dondi urged the clubs to give their full backing to the new coach.

"I am sure he can lead us to good results,'' Dondi said. "I believe Jacques has very clear ideas and we have to try to help him and support him.

"He'll certainly have my support and I hope he has the support of all the clubs, all the coaches. Without that, even if he has all the desire to do well, I don't think he'll manage to.''

Brunel's first game in charge will be Italy's opening Six Nations game versus France on Feb. 4.

Italy recorded a memorable victory over defending champion France in this year's tournament, and Brunel knows that triumph will make achieving a similar result against the World Cup runners-up in Paris even more difficult.

"France is the third best nation in the world - and it wants revenge,'' he said. "It's going to be very difficult, but I like that. It's going to be a good game and will show me immediately the capacity of this squad.''

Brunel is set to stick to much of the same personnel for the Six Nations but he insists he will give youth a chance in the June tour of Argentina, Canada and the United States.

"The Six Nations is very important,'' he said. "We have to be ready very quickly. So it will be necessary to rely on the majority of the players who were at the World Cup and then in June explore the potential mainly in young players.

"So we'll continue now with the backbone of players from the World Cup and then, rest them and bring in the youngsters in June.''

Brunel has previous international experience, having helped France reach successive World Cup semifinals in 2003 and 2007 as an assistant under Bernard Laporte. Brunel was put in charge of the forwards.

He quit that role to coach Perpignan, leading the club to the French championship in 2009 and to the final the following year. Last season, Perpignan reached the semifinals of the Heineken Cup.

Brunel said in January he woukd replace Mallett, and managed to persuade Perpignan to end his contract a year early to fulfill his dream of coaching a national team.

The FIR decided against renewing Mallett's contract, even though the former Springboks coach wanted to continue.

Mallett's record of nine wins from 41 internationals doesn't tell the full story of Italy's improvement under his guidance. Eleven of those games were against the Tri-Nations giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with another 20 in the Six Nations.

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