New Italian coach Jacques Brunel said his team must quickly reach a level that will enable them to compete for the Six Nations title.
The Frenchman was unveiled in his new post in Bologna on Thursday and immediately spoke of his belief in the team's potential.
Italy have competed in 12 Six Nations tournaments but have finished bottom nine times, finishing above the bottom two only once.
In 60 matches they have won only eight, drawing one and losing 51 times, yet Brunel is not discouraged by such inglorious history.
"The team has potential, they've been progressing for several years and I hope to develop this progress even more," he said.
"In the next two to three years we need to arrive in a position in which we are able to win the Six Nations and at the end of the four-year cycle to be in the first six in the world.
"That will require a lot of work, we have to keep our strengths and find a better balance with these strengths, but I believe strongly in this team."
In order to achieve such success the former Perpignan coach believes more work needs to be done at youth level.
"The national team needs to carry the flame for the whole of Italian rugby, it's a shop window for Italian rugby so we are obliged to get results," said Brunel.
"We need to provide the ambition for the whole of Italian rugby but we also need to find a way of doing so and for that we need an identity.
"There needs to be collaboration between the different levels so that what we put into it allows us to get results not just for tomorrow but also for after tomorrow.
"The influence we have on young players will determine the future of Italian rugby."
One of the issues that South African predecessor Nick Mallet always had was his difficulty in finding a top level halfback pairing.
Towards the end of his reign Mallett was fortunate enough to discover two talented young scrumhalves in Eduardo Gori and Fabio Semenzato but he never found a solution to his flyhalf issues.
And Mallet also complained that despite the Italian Federation financially assisting the two Pro12 franchises (Treviso and Aironi) neither of them fielded an Italian No.10.
That's something Brunel wants to change.
"I can't say the same about the No.9 and No.10," said Brunel.
"Today at No.9 we have lots of good players, there are three or four who could play at international level.
"There's been a great search in the last few years for a top level No.10 but all the teams in the world are looking for this.
"The problem we have today which bothers me is that [Riccardo] Bocchino isn't playing at the top level in Italian rugby in the franchises.
"That's a little bothersome. We can see things differently at No.9 where we have good players but at No.10 we need to give young players more possibility to play at the top level.
"There's [Luciano] Orquera but we will look for other players who can play at this level.
"But I have to say that all teams have this [problem] apart from New Zealand because they found [Dan] Carter.
"There is potential, there are those I know of who've already played for the national team but there's perhaps potential that I don't know about in the clubs.
"It's up to us to give confidence to those are who are here now and to prepare the future to find the players of tomorrow.
"We need to exploit our present strengths right now and to prepare for tomorrow we must obviously go regularly to work with the clubs."
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