Conor O'Shea is confident his Italy side are on "the right path" ahead of the Six Nations and says he is prepared to take the flak should results go against them.
The Azzurri won just one of their 11 Tests in 2017 and were beaten in all five of their Six Nations fixtures as they picked up the competition's wooden spoon for a second successive year.
Nevertheless, head coach O'Shea believes progress is being made and told ESPN: "We know we're on the right path. There will be some dark, tough times but I know that we are doing the right things."
A fixture against defending champions England represents a daunting opening tie for Italy, whose place in the Six Nations has been called into question.
"People look at the immediate, that's fine -- that's the world we live in. People will look at statistics, my job is to take the pain for that. We focus on the process we're putting in place," O'Shea added.
"I know people will look at the stats and start talking the usual tripe about whether Italy should be in the Six Nations, that's life, you get on with it.
"We as a group, we want to be unbelievably competitive and hopefully something special can happen.
"I'm excited for the future of Italian rugby but as I keep on saying to the players, our future is now."