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Italy ace Josh Furno says his side are desperate to make amends for last year’s wooden spoon finish

Italy ace Josh Furno says his side are desperate to make amends for last year’s wooden spoon finish

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Italy ace Josh Furno says his side are desperate to make amends for last year’s wooden spoon finish

Italian lock Josh Furno says his side are "fired up" ahead of tomorrow's Six Nations opener after Jacques Brunel confirmed a starting line-up that is, on paper at least, vastly more experienced than Ireland's.

His team, led again by the totemic Sergio Parisse, who missed the Dublin drubbing last year, boasts a total of 660 caps and shows only two changes from the line-up that ended the autumn campaign with a 22-6 defeat at the hands of South Africa.

George Fabio Biagi comes into the second-row alongside Furno, replacing the injured Quintin Geldenhuys, while Francesco Minto replaces Samuela Vunisa at openside flanker.

That means the half-back partnership between Kelly Haimona and Edoardo Gori remains in place after an impressive end to last year when the Azzurri beat Samoa and suffered a narrow defeat against Argentina.

"We are really impatient to start," Newcastle Falcons' Furno said. "The Six Nations is the most important event in our season and we can't wait to get started. We have been waiting a whole year for the Six Nations and we are so determined to make amends for last year's tournament.

"I believe we can do well against Ireland. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We have worked hard and are really fired up. Ireland are a difficult opponent but we have a good team too."

Brunel admits the challenge is a difficult one but he is boosted by knowledge of his country's traditional strength at the beginning of campaigns - 10 times in 15 years, their opening result has superseded everything that has followed.

They may be favourites to repeat last year's wooden spoon but they are more than capable of wielding the weapon on the opening weekend, for they have never won in week two, nor in successive weeks.

Eleven wins in 75 games is a pitiful return and even Parisse has suggested that Ireland would win 98 games out of 100 against his side; prior to the shock 22-15 defeat in Rome in 2013, Ireland had won 17 in a row before normal service was resumed last year.

"It is not the easiest challenge," concedes Brunel. "Ireland are the tournament favourites, but two years ago we beat them and we hope to have the right attitude this time. And this is the start, so anything can happen.

"Two years ago we dominated the game, last year it was impossible to avoid their domination when all the statistics were so negative."

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