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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Form guide: Italy
Italian fly-half Diego Dominguez celebrates his team's win over Wales at the start of the Six Nations championships
Italy got their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start
Italy will look back at the 2003 Six Nations championship with fondness after picking up only their second ever win in the competition.

John Kirwan's side started the tournament as favourites for another wooden spoon until an historic win over Wales in Rome.

The Italians, led by playmaker Diego Dominguez, destroyed the Welsh pack and starved their opponents of any possession.

And tries from Giampiero De Carli, Carlo Festuccia and Matthew Phillips proved too much for a side who always looked second best.

But for once the championship was not solely about the boot of Dominguez with Leicester's new signing Ramiro Pez also coming to the fore for the Italians.

It was not enough for them to notch up win number three in the championship.

Ireland, England and France proved far too strong as opponents although Italy performed admirably against the French, running in four tries from Mirco Bergamasco, Pez, Matthew Phillips and Aaron Persico.

FORM IN 2003

Bergamasco and Pez also scored tries in their final match of the tournament against Scotland and were joined on the scoresheet by Scott Palmer.

They came within a whisker of victory and dominated the second period with some wonderfully running rugby.

Few predicted Italy's rise through the Six Nations ranks, but it remains one of the few thrills in a season that will be remembered more for its spills.

The loss of inspirational flanker-come-winger Mauro Bergamasco mid-way through the campaign failed to dent their new self-belief.

If they can learn to start a match with as much vigour as they end it, they could prove a surprise package at the Rugby World Cup.

However, results since the Six Nations show they have failed to carry over their momentum into the rest of the season, losing badly to both Scotland and Ireland in the space of a week.

Try: Una meta
Penalty: Un rigore
Tackle: Un contrasto/un tackle
Come on ref: Dai arbitro
Cauliflower ears: Orecchi di cavolfiroe

Facing an experimental Scottish line-up, they capitulated and the script was even worse when the rugby calendar moved on a week, this time Ireland running riot.

Denis Hickie produced a stunning quartet of tries, picking up an Irish scoring record in the process. Italy, in contrast, looked incapable of breaching Irish defences.

Most worrying of all for Kirwan, however, was a narrow verdict over Georgia in their final pre-World Cup match.

They carved out a 31-22 win over the Lelos having been level 13-13 at half-time despite the gulf in experience and talent.

Kirwan's omission of Pez in the World Cup squad has also worried some fans.

Since Dominguez departed the scene at the end of Six Nations campaign, Pez has been Italy's first choice fly-half.

But, although Dominguez reportedly refused an offer to return, he was still omitted from the squad, leaving Italy without a recognised goal-kicker of international calibre.

Certainly, Kirwan and his players with plenty to think about on the trip to Australia.

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