6 Reasons Italy Are Currently Everything Wrong With International Rugby

England v Italy - RBS Six Nations

Although they’re not the only ones guilty of these things, here are six reasons Italy are currently everything wrong with international rugby…

1.’Project Players’

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.





  1. USA rugby is worse than Italy in most of these categories. Coming from an American

  2. Point 1 is grossly incorrect:

    “Italy seem particularly prevalent when it comes to the poaching of players”

    This is erroneous. The numbers of players playing for 6 Nations teams who were not born in that country are as follows:

    England – 5
    France – 7
    Ireland – 11
    Italy -10
    Scotland – 13
    Wales – 11

    Hence the Italians are not ‘particularly prevalent’ at poaching players

    If we examine the individual players:

    Haimoina – Born in NZ, qualified through residency (a la Brad Barritt)
    Furno – Born in Australia, grew up in Italy (a la Faletau)
    Parisse – Born in Argentina to Italian parents (his father played professional rugby in Italy), moved to Italy at 18. Spoke Italian in the household growing up and started his professional rugby in Italy.
    McLean – Born in Australia, moved to Italy at 20. Qualified through grand-parent (a la Hartley)

    Some of rugby’s great players were not born in the country they represented. 3 of the top 10 points scorers of all time were foreign born (O’Gara, Dominguez, Montgomery), as were some excellent international players (Shaw, Underwood, Charvis, Rokocoko, Collins, Muiliaina).

    It’s only ‘wrong’ because Italy are doing it. If this was an article about the All Blacks (who have long poached the best talent from Samoa, Fiji & Tonga), this point would not be included.

    • Where did u get these completely made up statistics from? The only player in the current Ireland team not born there is Jared Payne

      • Rodney ah you, Isaac Boss, Robbie Diack, Jamie Heaslip, Keiran Marmion, Richardt Strauss annnnnd Nathan White. You may want to do some research before you comment Chris.

        • Didn’t know jamie Heaslip was born in Israel until now but he is hardly a “project player”. I knew the rest you have mentioned are ‘nationalised’ but are not currently in the Ireland team if you did your research

          • He was only in Israel for the first few years of his life. He grew up in Ireland, had Irish blood and an Irish passport, from birth. He shouldn’t be included on this list

      • Here is a complete list of the none-home nation born players in the tournament

        Dylan Hartley (New Zealand)
        Alex Corbisiero (USA)
        Mako Vunipola (New Zealand)
        Billy Vunipola (Australia)
        Brad Barritt (South Africa)

        Uini Atonio (New Zealand)
        Thierry Dusautoir (Ivory Coast)
        Bernard le Roux (South Africa)
        Yannick Nyanga (Zaire)
        Rory Kockott (South Africa)
        Sofiane Guitome (Algeria)
        Noa Nakaitaci (Fiji)

        Rob Herring (South Africa)
        Richardt Strauss (South Africa)
        Michael Bent (New Zealand)
        Nathan White (New Zealand)
        Mike McCarthy (England)
        Jordi Murphy (Spain)
        Robbie Diack (South Africa)
        Jamie Heaslip (Israel)
        Isaac Boss (New Zealand)
        Kieran Mamion (England)
        Jared Payne (New Zealand)

        Matias Aguero (Argentina)
        Martin Castrogiovanni (Argentina)
        Dario Chistolini (South Africa)
        George Biagi (Scotland)
        Joshua Furno (Australia)
        Quentin Geldenhuys (South Africa)
        Robert Barbieri (Canada)
        Sergio Parisse (Argentina)
        Kelly Haimona (New Zealand)
        Luke McLean (Australia)

        Jim Hamilton (England)
        Ben Toolis (Australia)
        Hugh Blake (New Zealand)
        Blair Cowen (New Zealand)
        Rob Harley (England)
        Hamish Watson (England)
        David Denton (Zimbabwe)
        Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Spain)
        Henry Pyrgos (England)
        Greg Tonks (South Africa)
        Sean Maitland (New Zealand)
        Tommy Seymour (USA)
        Tim Visser (Netherlands)

        Aaron Jarvis (England)
        Jake Ball (England)
        Luke Charteris (England)
        James King (Australia)
        Dan Lydiate (England)
        Toby Faletau (Tonga)
        Gareth Anscombe (New Zealand)
        Jonathan Davies (England)
        Hallam Amos (England)
        Alex Cuthbert (England)
        George North (England)

        But then of course I have obviously made up this information……….

        • Toby Faletau has lived in Wales since he was 7 after his father moved there, the man even speaks with a welsh accent, saying he’s not welsh after living more than two thirds of his life there including the vast majority of his childhood is a joke.
          George North lived in Wales from the age of 2 after his family moved back to his mother’s home and speaks fluent welsh.
          Luke Charteris was raised for the vast majority of his life in Wales after being born in Cornwall and speaks welsh, coming up through the NGD youth team.
          James King was raised in North Wales and made his debut for Ospreys as a teenager.
          Dan Lydiate was born to a Welsh mother and moved to Wales at age 4 and grew up there.
          Jonathon Davies was born to welsh parents who moved back to wales when he was still young and attended school in Wales.
          Hallam Amos has lived in wales since he was 4 years old and has lived there since.
          Cuthbert is half welsh, attended university in Wales and stated he had no interest playing for England.
          I would point out that Gareth Anscombe has yet to actually represent Wales and so doesn’t really belong in this list.
          I’ll give you Jake Ball though, that one was a bit funny.

          My point is that I suspect I could do this with the players for each of the countries you’ve suggested, you’ve just found a list online that says they weren’t born in those countries, that has nothing to do with what nationality they are, the players for each of these teams are largely of that team’s nationality, and to quibble otherwise is a bit pathetic just because their parents lived somewhere else at the time of their birth.

          And you want a good non-rugby one to accompany that list, next time you see the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson on television, you can comfort yourself by knowing that by your logic he is in fact American.

          • These are all well known facts.

            The intention of the post is not to suggest that these players aren’t Welsh etc. It is more to illustrate that if you troll through the Italian team plucking out foreign birth places, you can do the same with any 6 nations team.

          • Heaslip was born in Israel, yes, but to Irish parents and with an Irish passport. He was only born there due to his father’s posting, and did his senior schooling and college in Ireland (Dublin), where he also started playing rugby. My point is, place of birth doesn’t have to dictate nationality.

          • The same point I previously made above. Place of birth doesn’t dictate nationality. If it did, all teams would be significantly affected

    • ummm…out of 1133 men who have don on the All Black jumper…only 32 have not been born in NZ. Being of Island descent does not mean they were poached if they are born in NZ…and are born NZ citizens. Using NZ as your comparison to “poaching” was stupid.

  3. Point 2 is the real bottom of the iceberg.
    Failure in building rugby culture both in schools and in popular culture (TV, or rugby events, excluded 2/3 matches from 6 nations) is our problem.
    Italian Federation is getting lots of money from 6 Nations and instead to pay high salaries for Zebres and Treviso (not even giving any result back) they should invest building pitches outsides schools. It might not giving any result in the short terms, but it will later.
    About the relegation to a second division. will any federation think to sell more tickets for Bucharest and Tbilisi rather than Rome? Then go for it

  4. Regardless of where people were born, this article seems to have missed the fact that Italy beat Scotland. Shouldn’t the Scots therefore be demoted?

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