Italy flanker Josh Sole revealed Aironi have transformed the way they are going about tackling this season’s RaboDirect PRO12 after a frustrating debut campaign.
Aironi finished last season bottom of the pile having won just one game – a 25-13 defeat of Connacht – but were left tantalisingly close in other matches having run the likes of Ospreys, Leinster, Edinburgh and Glasgow to within five points.
Most of those positive results coincided with the arrival of Rowland Phillips who replaced Franco Bernini as head coach in November.
And with a full pre-season under his belt Phillips, with the aid of assistant coach Gruff Rees, has ripped up the playbook from last season and got the Italians applying themselves equally to attack as well as defence.
Sole said: “This time last year there was a lot of uncertainty and we focussed on a lot on the wrong things.
“We devoted nearly all our time to defence and barely anything to attack.
“We improved a lot as the season went on but I think we took the wrong approach to the game. There were games where we were defending for 75 per cent of the game and there’s only so long you can defend before you just collapse exhausted.
“We lost a few games we should have definitely have won. There were three games we lost by a point and we threw it away against the Ospreys by two points which we should have definitely won.
"It was silly decisions and a lack of discipline in certain situations.
“Now we have a new assistant coach in Gruff Rees and he takes the attack while Rowland does the defence. We are starting to be a lot more organised and I think you will see that this season.”
Like nearly every team in the RaboDirect PRO12, Aironi will be affected by international call-ups during the World Cup.
With the likes of Fabio Ongaro flying the flag for the Azzurri, hooker Roberto Santamaria will take the captaincy while Sole has tipped Joshua Furno – playing in the Super 10 with Viadana – to be a standout player.
They will also benefit from the experience of Sole, a veteran of 47 Tests for Italy, but who has been dogged by injury over the last 12 months, which cost him a place on the plane to New Zealand.
But despite their absentees, Sole is still setting his sights on bigger and better things for Aironi this season.
He said: “We want to go on the road and be competitive. We don’t just want to hold teams to seven points and pick up bonus points; we are going there to win.
“We will be missing a lot of our front-line players but then so will a lot of other teams and we are quietly confident we will be a lot better than last year.
“Winning at home is very important to us. We started off with decent crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 and, although they went down there was still a loyal section who kept coming.
“The publicity we got from beating France in the Six Nations was really important to us. I think promoting two teams to the RaboDirect PRO 12 will have an even bigger impact.
“Playing high-intensity rugby week in and week out will be crucial for the development of the next generation of Italian players and that will only make Treviso and Aironi more competitive in the long run.”