Italy have healed their shattered confidence after the capitulation against New Zealand by throwing their unhappy memories “into the fire” ahead of their must-win World Cup clash with France.
Head coach Kieran Crowley has made five changes to the team that was trounced 96-17 in Lyon last week.
It was the Azzurri’s second-largest defeat to the All Blacks and their heaviest loss in the Six Nations era.
Some bruised egos needed to be healed before Friday’s crunch clash against the hosts, in which victory for the Azzurri would see them qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
“We’ve been quite devastated by our performance,” scrumhalf Stephen Varney told reporters.
“Going into the week, Kieran brought us in and we needed to get our confidence back.
“We did this thing where we chucked our thoughts into the fire to try to forget about it and take our learnings into this week and I think we’ve done that well.”
At the start of the week, the entire 33-man squad along with staff were given the opportunity to unburden themselves.
“Basically we just wrote our thoughts on a piece of paper and just chucked it into a fire,” said Varney.
“I think it’s a good way of forgetting about it and moving on because I don’t think that performance defined us as a team.”
It was a crucial part of the recovery process.
“It was important as a team to mourn the All Blacks match and now we’re ready to show how good we can be,” said lock Federico Ruzza.
Crowley restored Tommaso Allan to flyhalf and reverted to two midfield playmakers in his team announced on Wednesday.
Paolo Garbisi switches back to inside centre having started in the No.10 jersey during last week’s humiliation.
“We decided for this particular game we want the two playmakers at 10 and 12,” said Crowley.
Ange Capuozzo takes over at fullback with Pierre Bruno coming into the side on the right wing as veteran centre Luca Morisi drops to the bench in the only personnel change in the backline.
“Ange is an X-factor player. France have a long kicking game so we’ll have some opportunities to build some attack from back there,” added the coach.
For Italy to make history they will need to beat France for the first time since 2013.
The Azzurri have managed to beat Les Bleus only three times in 47 meetings.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP