Another Six Nations tournament passes without a victory for Italy. It is now five years since they won a match in the Championship, and they are looking less likely to do so every year. Where is it all going wrong?
Fewer leading players at big European clubs
In the last 10-15 years, Italy had several players who were playing at the peak of European rugby. The likes of Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Marco Bortolami and of course Sergio Parisse were regularly playing with and against the best. This generation has all but disappeared now, and whilst this has been a slow process, the post-Parisse era is very much underway.
With Benetton and Zebre in the PRO14, the vast majority of the Italy Six Nations squad is divided between these two. Wasps’ Matteo Minozzi and Gloucester’s Jake Polledri are the two main exceptions, and Michele Campagnaro is also at Harlequins. Would the national side benefit from more players plying their trade in England or France?
Half-back partnership and goalkicker needed
In their first three (pre-lockdown) matches, Italy started with a Callum Braley and Tommaso Allan half-back partnership. They failed to score a single point in two of these matches. Marcello Violi and Paolo Garbisi were then drafted in to play the final two matches, the latter a 20 year old debutant. In 2019 several others such as Guglielmo Palazzani, Ian McKinley and Tito Tebaldi also have held the nine or ten shirt. This creates far too much instability and makes it harder for the team to gel.
Italy have long been without a talismanic, or at least consistent, fly-half. Allan has been around for several years but has never become a permanent fixture in the team. He and several others have also proven unreliable off the kicking tee, further reducing Italy’s ability to score points and win matches.
Italy Six Nations struggles set to continue
There have been some close scorelines, notably in 2019 when they led Ireland 16-12 at half time (eventually falling to a 16-26 defeat). But 2020 has seen a slide back towards large defeats, with Scotland the only team not to claim a bonus point win against the Azurri.
They will have the chance to prove themselves in the Autumn Nations Cup and then in the 2021 Six Nations in just three months. Whether this relative extended run of games will lead to improved results is doubtful.
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