The Future of Italian Rugby

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IMarch 19, 2009

As we prepare to enter the final week of this year's Six Nations Tournament, there are a few questions about the state of European rugby that could be asked and debated.

Thanks to our good friend Jeremy over at Heaven's Game, we are able to bring the conversation to you, the fans.

Today, Heaven's Game is discussing the state of Italian rugby, something that is oddly close to my heart. In many ways the Italian rugby program reminds me of the US Eagles program here in the states. However, that is a conversation for another day.

The headlines have been scathing about Wales' abject performance in Rome, despite their victory. On the face of things, the result was hardly unexpected.

Many changes to combinations in international rugby are a dangerous risk against a team in Italy that is always capable of a very good performance. Just ask Australia after their match in November 2008.

The Welsh management will be relatively happy with the result behind closed doors. They have tested their squad strength in a competitive, hostile environment. They have seen that when under pressure their big-name players were able to produce the quality they needed, and that some of their squad players need more game time.

Throughout the match I could not help but think how disappointed I would have been if I were an Italian rugby fan. Despite having large chunks of possession and territory, the team was showing little adventure.

This was personified on the stroke of halftime. Italy had Wales pinned on their goal line. The Azzurri did not have the confidence to test Wales on the edges at center and wing. They chose an attempt at a drop goal which they missed.

Before the game, Italy probably talked about needing to score tries to beat Wales, as the Welsh will just about always get one themselves—such is the quality in their backline.

Italy needs to find a rhythm in their game that allows them to express their talent. How they do that is the tough part. Whenever their players meet international teams, whether in The European Cup/Challenge Cup or in the Six Nations, they are mostly under pressure.

Italy should start searching out games with Romania and Spain once again if for no other reason than to allow their players to express themselves in a competitive environment, which for most of the game they will be in control.

If you add this type of encounter on top of two Italian sides competing in The Magners League then we will see a swift improvement in Italy's ability to turn pressure into points and not rely on the boot for glory.