Seb Negri Column: ‘I wouldn’t be so passionate and so involved with Italy if I didn’t believe in what we are doing’


Italy’s Seb Negri is back with his latest column for TRU where he reflects on a disappointing World Cup, looks ahead to a new era for the Azzurri and discusses his role in the new Netflix 'Full Contact' series.

‘We let Kieran and our fans down’

If I start by reflecting over the last 12 to 18 months, Kieran [Crowley] laid down some incredible foundations for us. He brought together this group. All of us, and I know I speak for myself, owe a great deal to him. What a great coach and above all, what a great person who I loved playing for.

He obviously gave me my first opportunity at Benetton and then to get to play for him for Italy is something I’ll never forget and cherish.

I think Kieran was all about getting that respect and credibility back into Italian rugby and I think bar the two results at the World Cup [v New Zealand and France] where we let ourselves down, we achieved that.

We let Kieran down as players and the fans have got every right to be disappointed too. We are very disappointed with how the World Cup went, not only in those two games but if you look at the whole World Cup, we didn’t really hit our straps.

We didn’t really perform that well against Namibia and Uruguay. No one is blaming the staff or the system or the group because we were tight. Kieran did an incredible job and we have to take responsibility as players, look at ourselves in the mirror and I think that is what we have done.

A new era for the Azzurri

First and foremost with Gonzalo [Quesada] coming in as our new head coach, he has been really positive and really respectful about what we’ve done. He has come in with obviously some of his own ideas but doesn’t want to change too much and doesn’t want to take away that ambition of playing rugby and throwing the ball around because I think we did cause teams problems in last year’s Six Nations.

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Also, like Gonzalo has said, we have got to have a little bit of a conservative approach when things aren’t going so well whether that is kicking a little bit more or putting pressure on the opposition in different ways instead of just chucking the ball about.

It is about having a balance, right? We want to enjoy and attack teams like we have been doing but we have got to have that balance in our game.

We have a responsibility to show results in the Six Nations

We know are judged on results and you get respect through performance and results. It is tough to be like; ‘Italy are improving and we are getting better’ and then you get smacked again or finish bottom again so that is why we have to focus on the performance first.

I think that has happened over the last 12 to 18 months and that is what gives me the belief we can get results. We’ve beaten Australia, Japan, played well against France and Ireland in last year’s Six Nations and I remember when I came into the system, we were 14th, 15th in the world and now we are 11th so I think we have made strides forwards but the next step now is to get some consistency into our game and get some results, especially in the Six Nations.

I wouldn’t be so passionate and so involved in this Italy set-up if I didn’t believe in what we are doing. I am doing everything I can to keep going, pushing us forward and I fully believe in it.

‘When you strip that all back, we are just human beings that are vulnerable’

The Netflix stuff has been surreal and weird in lots of ways! Obviously, I have got a little bit of stick off the boys which is normal! The amount of support and people getting in touch has actually been really touching and I really appreciate all the messages.

I think it is a really good insight into what we go through as players, the sacrifices we make and at the end of the day, we’re just human beings. We get stuck into each other on a Saturday but if you strip that all back, we are just human beings that are vulnerable I guess.

You can see what we go through, what our bodies go through. I had a few worried Mum’s following me on social media and messaging me saying I must be careful of my head and there is life after rugby. I have had one or two messages like that and I understand that 100 per cent but in general, there is just more of an appreciation of what we go through.

Also, people who have a similar story and have gone through something similar in their lives have reached out and started following me. That is pretty cool.

First up - England

[I think focusing on a new-look England] is looking too deep into it, to be honest. We genuinely haven’t talked about who they are missing, who they have. We are focusing on a Test match against England and we know exactly how much quality they have. A lot of the players in their group now have been performing really well in the Prem and deserve their chance to be there.

We are under no illusions what England team is coming. They are one of the best teams in the world, they got to a World Cup semi-final so we fully respect them.

We have got to start making Rome a fortress so I think it is really important to get off to a good start. We can’t focus too much on the result but if we focus on our performance, then anything can happen.

Success in this Six Nations? Look, it would be awesome to get a win so I think we have to focus, first and foremost, on our performance and taking it a few steps forward from the World Cup where we let ourselves down. I think that is success in terms of keeping on the same sort of track of gaining respect and credibility.

We are all just looking forward to getting going on Saturday now.

Seb was talking to TRU's Chris Heal ahead of Italy's Six Nations opener against England in Rome.


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