Although they’re not the only ones guilty of these things, here are six reasons Italy are currently everything wrong with international rugby…
Although many international sides are guilty of calling-up players brought up through other nations systems, Italy seem particularly prevalent when it comes to the poaching of players. An increasingly large number of their squad have come from overseas, with many having no Italian heritage whatsoever, and many others relying on Grandparents for their eligibility. The likes of Kelly Haimoina, Josh Furno, Luke McLean and even Sergio Parisse are all such players.
2.Failure To Invest In Youth
An area of growing concern for Italian rugby fans must be the Italian Rugby Union’s failure to properly invest in youth development. There are a few exceptions to this such as the breakthrough of players like Luca Morisi and Michele Campagnaro, however it’s hard to see where Italy are going to find players to replace the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parisse when they retire in the next few years.
3.Declining Club Game
The Italian clubs have always struggled somewhat to compete in the Pro12, however it is becoming increasingly apparent that they are well out of their depth. The two Italian sides regularly find themselves in the bottom two of the league, and the story gets even worse in the senior European competitions. The failure to maintain the same two sides in the Pro12 has also resulted in a great deal of disruption which is hardly helping the situation.
4.Failure To Compete
When Italy joined the Six Nations it was entirely on merit, they had developed significantly and where at a stage where they could regularly compete with the other five nations. The idea was that by allowing them to regularly play tier 1 nations they could continue their rapid ascendency. The problem is that if anything they now appear to be going backwards as they once again struggle to register a single victory in the Six Nations.
Whether it be the club game, or the national side, it seems that all the Italian Rugby Union are interested in is the present. From a coach who is set to leave after the World Cup to a failure to bring through youth players to challenge the established order, it looks like things are set to go down-hill pretty rapidly. This failure to plan ahead is pretty much guaranteed to see the Italian side fall further down the world rankings over the next few years.
One of the biggest problems in relation to Italy is that in many ways they feel just a little bit too comfortable in their current position. As things stand they are guaranteed entry to both the Six Nations and World Cup despite the appalling record of late. Perhaps now is the time to once again discuss the potential for promotion and relegation from the Six Nations in order to encourage Italy to focus more on competing right now.