SIX NATIONS PREVIEW: Venter on Italy

2 February 2017

Brendan Venter is looking forward to seeing his Italy side go toe-to-toe with the very best in this year’s RBS Six Nations Championship.

Venter, who is London Irish’s Technical Director, recently penned a deal with the Azzurri to become their Defence Coach until the 2019 World Cup.

Spearheaded by former Exile Conor O’Shea, Italy welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico this Sunday for their tournament opener.

“I think realistically our goals are around performance and to see how we are going to beat people isn’t how we operate,” Venter told the London Irish website.

“We just sit down, set goals and see how good we can be. That’s our motto – performing to the best of our ability and letting the result take care of itself,” added the 47-year-old.

Part of the Italian set-up that masterminded an historic 20-18 victory over his native South Africa in Florence last autumn, Venter admits he had mixed emotions.

“I was happy for our guys because the work that Conor had put in was amazing and the players were exemplary on the day,” said Venter.

He added: “The thing I love about the Azzurri is that most of them are very inexperienced. They work unbelievably hard, but on the flip side I felt for the Springboks as when things go wrong in this game, they go really wrong and that’s where they are at the moment.”

O’Shea hailed Venter’s decision to remain with Italy as a real boost ahead of the Six Nations, saying: “I played and worked with Brendan at London Irish in the past and I believe that this agreement is the best it can be, for us and for him.

“Brendan has had a great impact on the group and we are excited to be working with him for years to come. He’s a coach respected by the whole international rugby scene and we are proud that he wanted to commit until the next World Cup.”

Looking ahead at this year’s Championship, Venter has pinpointed both England and Ireland as the two main contenders for the Grand Slam.

“It’s hard to see past England and Ireland at the moment,” said the former Springbok centre.

“The others teams are rebuilding, especially Wales and France who will still be a threat in the competition. However, in Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt England and Ireland have two world class coaches.

“Not only that, the backroom team in both camps are equally as world class – Eddie and Joe will admit that they have done well, but their acquisitions around them have been first rate.

“Paul Gustard and Steve Borthwick in Eddie’s case and Andy Farrell in Joe’s case. I know these guys and they are good people – you do well if you surround yourself with good people, simple as that,” he added.

Whilst Venter embarks on an Italian revolution with old foe O’Shea, he remains fully committed to assisting Exiles Director of Rugby Nick Kennedy as the club looks to make an immediate return to the Premiership.

“The nicest thing about my role at London Irish is seeing how the team is growing – every time I’m here, it’s clear to see the positive development of the whole set-up,” said Venter, a key figure in laying the foundations for Saracens’ domestic and European success.

“I’m not just talking about the players, the coaches are also evolving and Nick [Kennedy] has created a special environment. External friends of mine have been complimenting me on the atmosphere we have, and for me that is key to the long-term success of a club.

“Every single member of the senior management has done very well to implement this.”

Going from strength-to-strength behind the scenes, results have followed suit on the field with 13 wins out of 13 in the league. Venter admits the club’s rotation policy has been a key factor behind the winning sequence that Irish hope to increase this weekend.

“If I use Harry Elrington as an example, it’s been invaluable for him to get game time and in the past that wouldn’t have been the case.

“Nick and the boys have done well to work on the squad depth for next year and we are confident that we’ve got a good squad now – the vast majority of this squad could perform in the Premiership,” said Venter.

Nottingham are the visitors to the Madejski Stadium on Sunday as the Championship campaign continues (kick-off 3pm). Tickets are available for the game by calling 0118 968 1016 or click here to book online.  

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