Italy coach Jacques Brunel has acknowledged that his team face a tough task up against the world champion All Blacks in Rome this weekend.
Having secured a tense 28-23 victory over a dangerous Tonga side last week Italy will be seeking their first-ever victory over New Zealand on Saturday, but Brunel is keeping their goals as realistic as possible.
The Azzurri boss knows that his side will be up against it in the next two weeks, with the Wallabies set to follow the All Blacks in visiting Rome, and he stressed the need to focus on their own game and take as many positives from the matches as possible.
"It won't be an easy road, we know it.
"But because we are going to face teams that are ahead of us in the rankings, we must be focused on playing our game and compete from the beginning until the final whistle, so to keep the score close and increase our chances to win games," he told Fairfax media.
Having succesfully avoided the Six Nations Wooden Spoon in Brunel's first year in charge, Italy are hoping to build on that by competing with the best in the world on home soil.
"The analysis I make is that we turned our back on a difficult year and have made good progress.
"Our players had to face a change in coaching and the traditionally complicated post-World Cup year, but they did it quite nicely," said Brunel.
However, the Italy coach admitted to becoming frustrated with narrow losses to England and Argentina and has targeted a more accurate display against the All Blacks who have not lost a game this year.
"We simply need to stop wasting chances.
"This season we have played only minutes of what we have been working at in training since last November. We need to up our game and support the game-plan for the entire 80 minutes of play. This must be our mission for the next six months," he said.
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