Rugby Union: Italians can add a dash of style

Paul Trow finds that a trip to Rome will be hard for players but great for the fans

IT'S just as well that rugby folk are getting used to changes on an almost daily basis because another one is surely imminent - the switch in Europe from "The Famous Five" to "Now We Are Six".

The decision on whether to admit Italy to the sport's oldest tournament - hitherto known as the Five Nations' Championship - looks like being made at the next meeting of the Rugby Football Union's council on 20 February. Last Friday was hailed as "a great day for Italian rugby" by Giancarlo Dondi, the president of the Italian Federation, after the other four nations laid out the welcome mat for the 1999-2000 Championship.

And with Allan Hosie, the chairman of the Five Nations' committee, cooing about the "new and exciting dimension" which Italy would bring to proceedings, rejection at this stage would be churlish even by the RFU's standards.

A series of impressive results have strengthened Italy's case, and they have two further gilt-edged opportunities over the next three weeks to prove their international mettle - on Saturday when they entertain Scotland in Treviso and on 7 February, the opening day of the 1998 Championship, when they meet Wales in Llanelli.

"I believe we are good enough to play in the European Championship, but we have to win both games to prove we are worthy and make it difficult for the English to turn us down," said the prop and former Italian captain Massimo Cuttitta, who now plays for Harlequins.

"We beat Ireland last month so we ought to have a good chance against Scotland and Wales, but rugby is a strange game. At the end of 1996, we lost narrowly to Wales in Rome and Scotland in Edinburgh, and England thrashed us at Twickenham. Early in 1997, though, we beat Ireland in Dublin and then had a fantastic win over France in Grenoble just after they had clinched the Grand Slam."

Ironically, if Italy had been part of last season's Championship (a fantasy world based on real results), England would have shared the title with France, perhaps even shaded it on points difference, while Scotland and Ireland would have filled the last two places.

If Italy get the green light, they intend to split their home matches between Bologna, where they recently played Ireland, and a 34,000 capacity complex near the Olympic Stadium in Rome. "The game in Italy is improving and becoming more popular. We often get 10,000 spectators for big club games," said the 31-year-old Cuttitta, who grew up with his twin brother, Marcello, an international wing, in South Africa.

"We have a strong squad and a lot of young players are coming up, so the pressure for places is building. But we've only played one-off internationals up to now and even though we've had some good victories they don't mean much on their own."

Michael Lynagh, now plying the twilight of his trade with Saracens after five seasons in Italy from 1991, is in full agreement. "Italians like to play for something significant and the matches would be very well supported if they got in. They are certainly ready for it. They are competitive and they've done everything they can. The decision's nothing to do with me, but I'd put money on them beating at least two of the other countries.

"There's a big rugby tradition at clubs around the Venice area - Padova, Rovigo and Treviso, where I played. Rome and Milan are also quite strong. The internationals in Bologna, which is in the middle of the country, will attract large crowds because everyone from the north and Rome can get there fairly easily. Rome is a bit too far for some people from the north-east to travel to, but it would be great for the visiting fans - a weekend to look forward to, like Paris or Dublin.

"The Italian style of rugby has been influenced by the French - they love to run with the ball. Pierre Villepreux has coached in Italy, and the current national coach, Georges Costes, is French. It really is about time Italy were part of the big picture in world rugby."

Suggested Topics
News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

PPA Supply Teachers

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prima...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?