Six Nations Thoughts – Italy

25 01 2010

When Italy first joined the 5 Nations competition (turning it into the 6 Nations) they came on a wave of optimism and a real hope that within a decade they could be competitive in what is the worlds second best annual rugby competition*. Unfortunately this hope has not materialised, and in the last decade of Six Nations Championships, they have only won 6 out of 50 games. A poor record by any standards.

Up until 2007, when Italy beat Wales and Scotland finishing 4th, there had been a slight but discernible improvement in playing ability. Since then Italy appear to have gone backward substantially and have only won 1 game. These results are born out at European club level with the Italian clubs being regular whipping boys for the more established teams.

It is possible to argue that the the year long period in 2008/9 under the ELV’s (Experimental Law Variations), which emasculated the scrum and removed the driving maul from a side’s armoury, meant that Italy’s main weapons were removed and consequently results suffered. Unfortunately this argument is probably too charitable to them as the Summer tours down under and the Autumn Internationals of 2009, played under the old rules, did not bring much joy.

Italy however are not entirely without hope and possess several very good players. Sergio Parisse, widely regarded as one of the best players in the world today, provides them with an athletic and powerful presence at the back of the scrum. Mauro Bergamasco, Parisse’s back row partner, provides muscle and not a little skill. In Martin Castrogiovanni they have one of the worlds best props. Indeed, Castrogiovanni recently only just lost out in a planet-rugby.com poll to Carl Hayman of New Zealand to discover the worlds best XV of the professional era. The Italian pack is undoubtedly their strong point as both South Africa and New Zealand discovered in a rare plus point from the Autumn series. The backs are not up to much and it is the question of where the points going to come from in attack that should worry Nick Mallet, Italy’s Head Coach.

Good news for Italy came at the beginning of the current rugby season when it was proposed that two Italian provinces compete in the Magners League. This, apparently a directive from the IRB in an attempt to raise standards, now looks like it could be in jeopardy. There are concerns that the Italian provinces won’t be able to raise sufficient capital and sort out one or two administrative issues in time to enter the competition for the 2010/11 season. By competing regularly at this higher level of competition Italian rugby would get stronger and provide more strength in depth.

A competitive Italy side would provide welcome variety in the 6 Nations and also in world rugby which all too often reverts to type with only three or four teams challenging for honours.

Prediction: Last place for Italy due to tricky away fixtures. A home tie to Scotland represents their best chance of a win.

* We think results in the Autumn have settled any northern vs southern hemisphere debates over standards.

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2 responses

26 01 2010
Will F

I wonder where the likes of Russia or Georgia might be had they received the same amount of marketing, coaching, support and (most importantly) funding the Italians have enjoyed these last 10 years.

I would suggest that 6 wins in 10 years is not a great return on investment,

27 01 2010
Bradders

Agreed. It also must be concerning that Nick Mallet hasn’t been able to spur them on at all since he took over a couple of years ago. I suppose what it comes down to is the strength of your club game and this perhaps is where italy would be ahead of the other two. Magners league entry should help although with only 2 sides being entered they may end up in a similar situation to Scotland, with a serious lack of depth.

Scotland also have only won 14 out of 50 in that time which is also concerning for them.

P.s. thanks for reading mate.

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