Six Nations contenders: Azzurri and the wooden spoon
Taking part is the most important aspect of Italian participation in the Six Nations
Italy’s participation became the sixth nation in 2000, thus making it three matches in each round and no byes. They have thus taken part in 19 tournaments. They have not yet won. The only “trophy” they have taken home is the unwanted Wooden Spoon, a booby prize originating at Cambridge. Italy have won the wooden spoon 13 times, Scotland four times and Wales and France once each.
In their 19 years they have won 12 times, beating Scotland seven times, France and Wales twice each and Ireland once. In 2007 and 2013 they won two matches in each year.
Italy won just two of its 11 matches in 2018 but one of those two was most significant – the victory over Georgia in the art capital of the world. There had been lots of talk about promotion/relegation for the Six Nations’ participants. Often Italy’s performances were compared unavoidably with those of Georgia. Italy rather muted further talk by winning 28-17, four tries to two.
Being part of the Six Nations has been most beneficial to Italian rugby. It gets television exposure and increasing numbers of spectators. Thirty years ago, you could go to watch Italy play without having to pay. Now Rome is a popular venue for the other five and the game is growing. There are still stranieri in Italian teams but more and more Italian-born players are coming to the fore – men like centres Michele Campagnaro and Tommaso Castello, half backs like Tommy Allan and Tito Tebaldi, and forwards like evergreen Leonardo Ghiraldini and flank Alessandro Zanni.
Italy’s 2018 Results
Italy lost to England 46-15 at Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Italy lost to Ireland 56-19 at Lansdowne Rd, Dublin
Italy lost to France 34-17 at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille
Italy lost to Wales 38-14 in Cardiff
Italy lost to Scotland 29-27 at Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Italy lost to Japan 34-17 at Oita Stadium in Oita on Kyushu Island in Japan
Italy beat Japan 25-22 at Misaki Park Stadium in Kobe, Japan
Italy lost to Ireland 54-7 in Chicago
Italy beat Georgia 28-17 in Florence
Italy lost to Australia 26-7 in Padua
Italy lost to New Zealand 66-3 at Olympic Stadium, Rome
Italy’s 2019 Six Nations Fixtures
Italy played three of their five matches in Rome and came last. This year they play only two ice at home but three times away.
Italy played two of their five matches in Rome and came last. This year they play three times in Rome and two away. But two of their matches at home are against strong sides, Ireland and Wales.
2 February 2019
Scotland vs Italy at Murrayfield
9 February 2019
Italy vs Wales at Stadio Olimpico
24 February 2019
Italy vs Ireland at Stadio Olimpico
9 March 2019
England vs Italy at Twickenham
16 March 2019
Italy vs France at Stadio Olimpico
Sergio Parisse is back.
He is 35 but having him back from injury is a great boost for Italian rugby even if he is 35. After all he may well be the best Italian rugby player ever and its best leader. He is certainly the most experienced with 134 caps.
Other experienced players are Ghiraldini, who is now 34 and has 97 caps, and Zanni who has played 107 times for Italy. New Zealander Dean Budd, South African Braam Steyn, Campagnaro and Castello, wing Tommaso Benvenuti and fullback Jayden Hayward form the nucleus of a good team.
But if 2018 is anything to go by they leak far too many points. Their points difference in the 2018 Six Nations was -lll. (Scotland were next worst with -27.)
Italy squad for a Camp in Rome on 20-23 January 2019
Forwards: Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Cherif Traore, Giosue Zilocchi, Luca Bigi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Alessandro Zanni, Marco Barbini, Maxime Mbanda, Sebastian Negri, Sergio Parisse (capt), Braam Steyn, Jimmy Tuivaiti
Backs: Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Ian McKinley, Giulio Bisegni, Michele Campagnaro, Tommaso Castello, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Angelo Esposito, Jayden Hayward, Edoardo Padovani, Luca Sperandio
Conor O’Shea who not only coaches the national team but has all Italian structures as his responsibility.
Italy to end sixth, unless they beat France in Rome on the last day of the Six Nations, in which case they will end fifth.
By Paul Dobson