Marco Bortolami is relishing the opportunity to serve as Italy's captain in the RBS 6 Nations.
It will not be the first time the 24-year-old Narbonne lock has captained the Azzurri, having become their youngest skipper when he led them against the All Blacks two years ago.
However, he expects the clash with Ireland at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome on February 6 to be the most challenging and special of his Test career.
''It will be different,'' Bortolami said.
''Previously I have only been in charge temporarily when the captain was injured.
''This time around it's the real deal because coach John Kirwan has seen me as the right person for the job and this makes me very proud.''
Bortolami is confident he will not fold under pressure and believes the appointment has come at the right time.
''I don't think it will be a burden,'' admitted Bortolami. ''Kirwan has prepared me for this role and today I feel more mature than in the past.
''It will be challenging from a mental point of view but I don't think it will be any different during the game, in fact, it will probably give me an added motivation.''
Italy have made great strides since their debut in the competition in 2000. They beat Scotland in their first year and produced a stunning display to beat Wales 30-22 in 2002.
And their 20-14 triumph against the Scottish team in Rome last season ensured the Azzurri avoided the wooden spoon for the second successive year.
Bortolami, who played in two of those victories, believes this could be the year when Italy take a definite leap forward.
''If we are able to play as well as we know we can then this Six Nations could be a turning point for our national team,'' said Bortolami.
''It's certainly going to be more challenging than in the previous years because after our good results our rivals know they will face a difficult opponent and they will not give us anything for free.''
But with rivals Wales and Scotland having also made vast improvements, Bortolami knows that no game will be easy.
''We want to improve from last season,'' admitted Bortolami.
''We want to win two games and in order to do that we will have to go out and play all the games with a winning mentality.
''Our rivals have improved as well and it will not be easy to maintain the standard of previous years.''
Italy will play three games at home but with a revived Wales and last year's RBS 6 Nations Champions France travelling to the Eternal City, Bortolami is aware of what his team are up against.
''We have three very difficult games at home,'' said Bortolami.
''It might be a slight psychological advantage to play at home but we know that any of our rivals have the quality to get a result in Rome but we also warn them that we can also get a result whether it's in Rome or in Scotland or in England.''
Kirwan's men showed their worth in November when they beat Canada and the United States in style.
''We have taken something positive from those games,'' said the former Petrarca Padova player.
''Those victories have certainly given us a boost of confidence but we now must prove our worth when it counts and make sure we are able to remain focused for the entire game.
''Continuity is the most important thing if we want to achieve our aims.''
Bortolami believes that much of Italy's success will be down to the contribution of the two centres Andrea Masi and Gonzalo Canale.
''I think both of them are ready to explode in the big arena,'' said Bortolami.
''Masi has an impressive physical quality and Canale is a very good player, we expect a lot from them.''