Italy national rugby union team
The Italy national rugby union team is the representative national team in the sport of rugby union for the nation of Italy. The team is known as gli Azzurri (the Blues). Savoy blue is the common colour of the national teams representing Italy, as it is the traditional colour of the royal House of Savoy which reigned over the Kingdom of Italy from 1860 to 1946.
|Nickname(s)||Gli Azzurri (The Blues)|
|Union||Federazione Italiana Rugby|
|Head coach||Franco Smith (interim)|
|Most caps||Sergio Parisse (142)|
|Top scorer||Diego Dominguez (983)|
|Top try scorer||Marcello Cuttitta (25)|
|Home stadium||Stadio Olimpico|
|World Rugby ranking|
|Current||12 (as of 21 Oct 2019)|
|Lowest||15 (2015 and 2017)|
|Spain 9–0 Italy|
(Barcelona, 20 May 1929)
|Italy 104–8 Czech Republic|
(Viadana, 18 May 1994)
|South Africa 101–0 Italy|
(Durban, 19 June 1999)
|Appearances||9 (First in 1987)|
|Best result||Pool stage, 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019|
Italy has played international rugby since 1929, and for decades was considered one of the best European teams outside the Five Nations Championship. Since 2000, Italy has competed annually in the Six Nations Championship with England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In 2013, they were holders of the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy which is played annually between Italy and France. Italy is ranked 14th in the world by the IRB as of 30 September 2019.
Italian rugby rose to prominence in 2000 when it was added to the Five Nations, creating the Six Nations. Initially on the receiving end of some heavy defeats, the side has grown in competitiveness, recording a fourth-place finish in 2007 and 2013, and one-sided defeats have become less frequent. The Azzurri have shown respectable results when playing at home in recent years: they defeated France 22–21 in the 2011 Six Nations; and during the 2013 Six Nations, they again beat France 23–18, also defeating Ireland 22–15. However, Italy has not won a Six Nations match since their 22–19 away win against Scotland in Round 3 of the 2015 tournament, losing every game since; this equates to a losing run of 22 matches.
The Italian team has also competed at every Rugby World Cup since the first tournament in 1987, where Italy played the inaugural game against New Zealand, but is yet to progress beyond the first round. The team has developed a reputation for being a consistent middle player at the tournament. Italy's results since the inception of a new group stage formula in 2003 have consistently followed a pattern of two wins and two losses.
Early history: 1911–34
The first match played by an Italian XV was in 1911 between US Milanese and Voiron of France. On 25 July of the same year the "Propaganda Committee" was formed which in 1928 became the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR) (Italian Rugby Federation).
In May 1929, Italy played their first international losing 0–9 against Spain in Barcelona. In 1934, Italy was one of the founder members of FIRA, today's Rugby Europe; the others were France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Catalonia, Romania, Holland and Germany.
World War II meant an hiatus for Italian rugby union, as it did in other rugby-playing nations. Post-war, there was a desire to return to normal and Italian rugby union entered a new dimension thanks to the help of Allied troops in Italy.
In the 1970s and 1980s rugby union made enormous progress thanks to great foreign players (John Kirwan, Naas Botha, David Campese, Michael Lynagh) and coaches (Julien Saby, Roy Bish, Greenwood, Nelie Smith) in the Italian championship. Even foreign coaches were and continue to be chosen for the national team, like Bertrande Fourcade and Georges Coste. In 1973, the national team went on a tour of South Africa, coached by ex-Springbok prop Amos Du Plooey. Tours of England and Scotland followed, as well as games against Australia and New Zealand, the masters of their day. In 1978, Italy first played Argentina at Rovigo, winning 19–6.
Since the mid 1980s, the Italian national side had been pursuing the ambition of playing in an expanded Five Nations Championship. Consistently winning against nations that now play in the European Nations Cup (Romania, Spain, Georgia, etc.), and good results against the major nations such as France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland meant that they were often talked as strong candidates.
In 1986, Italy hosted an England XV squad in Rome, drawing 15–15. The Azzurri took part in the first-ever Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand on 22 May 1987. The match proved a one-sided affair with New Zealand convincing 70–6 winners against a young Italian side. John Kirwan, later to become the Italian national coach, scored one of the tournament's greatest-ever tries for the All Blacks. Italy beat Fiji but lost to Argentina and finished third in their pool, failing to make the finals. In 1988, they played Ireland for the first time.
At the 1991 World Cup, Italy were grouped in a tough pool with the likes of England and the All Blacks. They lost both of these games but beat the USA. Italy first played Wales in 1994. At the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, Italy came close to beating England; losing 20–27, but recovered to beat Argentina. They finished third in their pool again below England and Western Samoa, but above the Argentines.
The late 1990s saw the Italians build a formidable side and record Test victories over Five Nations opposition. In 1996, a deal between British Sky Broadcasting and the Rugby Football Union meant that England home games were exclusively shown on Sky. England were threatened with being expelled from the Five Nations to be replaced by Italy. This threat was never carried out as a deal was worked out.
In 1996, Italy toured England, Wales and for the first time Scotland, losing all matches. The team recorded two consecutive victories over Ireland in 1997; 37–29 on 4 January, at Lansdowne Road, and 37–22 on 20 December, in Bologna. On 22 March 1997 they recorded their first win over France, 40–32, (in Grenoble). In January 1998, Scotland were the victims with Italy winning 25–21 (in Treviso); in the same year in the Rugby World Cup Qualifiers, they narrowly lost 15–23 against England at Huddersfield, but they argued for a try by Alessandro Troncon disallowed by the referee.
Six Nations era: 2000–present
Italy finally joined the Six Nations Championship in 2000 but their admission coincided with the departure of some of their best players. Nevertheless, they won their opening game against the reigning champions Scotland 34–20. Thereafter they struggled to compete against the other nations and their participation was called into question. The 2001 and 2002 tournaments were particularly disappointing as they did not win a single game. Coach Brad Johnstone was sacked in 2002 after an alleged show of 'player power'.
John Kirwan was then appointed coach. Italy won two pool games at the 2003 World Cup, defeating both Canada and Tonga, but lost to the All Blacks and Wales. They managed to win their second Six Nations game in 2003, a 30–22 victory over Wales, thus avoiding the wooden spoon. They followed up by winning two games at the World Cup, another first, though the tournament was ultimately disappointing as the Welsh gained revenge with a 27–15 success that meant that Italy were the only Six Nations country not to advance to the knock-out stage. Their third win came against Scotland in 2004.
Italy, along with other nations, had made good use of IRB rules which allowed them to select foreign-born players if they had Italian ancestry or had lived in Italy for a qualifying period of three years. From 2004 they announced that they would only pick three such 'non-Italians' per team in order to develop their own domestic players.
In the 2005 Six Nations Italy finished bottom of the table again and failed to win a single game. Kirwan was sacked and replaced with Pierre Berbizier. Italy then went on a tour of Argentina where they surprised many by beating the Pumas 30–29 and drawing the series 1–1 (the only 2005 victory of a Northern Hemisphere team visiting a Southern Hemisphere team). However, the Pumas had their revenge when they visited Genoa and beat Italy 39–22.
In the 2006 Six Nations Championship the Italian team performed strongly against every team, leading against both England and France in the first half, but lost their first three games. They did, however, get a creditable 18–18 draw away to Wales, their first away point in the tournament, and were unlucky not to draw with Scotland in Rome in the final game, losing 10–13 courtesy of a late Scottish penalty. In the 2007 Six Nations Championship, Italy started poorly, losing to France 3–39. However, Italy's performance improved, and they held England to a 20–7 result at Twickenham. Italy followed with a stunning start to their match at Murrayfield against Scotland, scoring three quick tries to give Italy a 21–0 lead after seven minutes, and the Azzurri went on to a 37–17 victory; their first-ever away win in the Six Nations. Italy's next match was against Wales in Rome, with Italy winning 23–20, for their first consecutive victories in the competition and help them achieve their highest-ever position in the competition. The domestic interest in rugby reached new heights with Italy's new success front page media coverage and the sport being held up as a model of fair play. Media and public interest in the national team was very high during the side's newfound success, despite losing their last game to Ireland. 10,000 fans later greeted the national team at Rome's Piazza del Popolo.
The 2008 Six Nations Championship saw the Italians again finish in last place, albeit by only a three-point margin. They took part in close matches against Ireland, Wales England and France respectively and managed a sole victory, defeating Scotland 23–20 in Rome in the last round of matches. In the summer tests they lost to South Africa but again managed to surprise 3rd ranked Argentina with a 13–12 victory. At the 2008 end of year tour Italy pushed the Wallabies in their clash in Padova, but the Australians eventually went on to win 30–20. A week later the Italians were defeated by Argentina, 14–22.
Italy's 2009 Six Nations campaign was ill-fated almost from the beginning, with both scrum-halves ruled out of the competition before a ball was kicked, and a third alternative ruled out of the opener at England due to injury. Head coach Nick Mallett tried flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrum-half. Mallett's gamble failed in epic fashion, with Bergamasco's mistakes leading to three England tries before he was replaced at half-time; England went on to win 36–11. In week two Italy also put in a poor performance against Ireland losing 9–38. The two poor performances were followed by another loss to Scotland. The Azzurri were competitive in their 15–20 loss at the Flaminio to a Wales side resting many of its key players for the championship decider against Ireland the next week. Italy finished in last place for the second straight year after losing to France on the final weekend of the tournament.
In the 2010 Six Nations Championship, Italy were well beaten by Ireland 11–29 before narrowly losing to England and defeating Scotland. Italy were defeated in their last two matches against France and Wales.
Italy finished the 2011 Six Nations with a 1–4 record. In the opening match of the 2011 Six Nations, Italy was beaten by Ireland 11–13 at home, with Ireland scoring a drop goal less than two minutes before the final whistle. The Azzurri claimed a 22–21 home victory over the reigning Six Nations champions, France, gaining Italy's first win over France in a Six Nations game. At the final whistle, the English language commentator declared it the greatest win in Italian rugby history thus far.
Italy finished the 2012 Six Nations in fifth place with a 1–4 record, following a 13–6 win over Scotland before over 72,000 fans at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Italy's 15–19 loss to England was their smallest margin of defeat. The championship also saw Italy lose to Wales, Ireland and France.
Italy played three matches in the 2012 November internationals, losing two and winning one. The Italians lost to New Zealand and Australia 19–22, with Italian fly half Luciano Orquera missing a penalty in the last minute which would have secured Italy's first draw against Australia. Italy did manage a win in the series, beating Tonga 28–23.
Italy gained their second Six Nations win over France when they beat them 23–18 on their opening match of the 2013 Six Nations Championship. Three defeats by Scotland, Wales and England followed. On their final game of the championship Italy won against Ireland 22–15 for the first time in a Six Nations match in front of 75,000 fans at the Stadio Olimpico. Overall Italy finished fourth, behind Scotland in third on points difference, to make it one of their most successful Six Nations. In November 2013, Italy hosted Australia at Turin for a 20–50 loss, then defeated Fiji 37–31 at Cremona and was defeated by Argentina 14–19 at Rome.
Italy were whitewashed at the 2014 Six Nations Championship, including a 20–21 home loss to Scotland, a 7–46 loss to Ireland and an 11–52 loss to England. In June the team made an Asia-Pacific tour, where they were defeated by Fiji, Japan and Samoa. In November they scored a home win to Samoa, a two-point loss to Argentina and another loss to South Africa.
In the 2015 Six Nations Championship, Italy took a 22–19 away win over Scotland to avoid the wooden spoon, but suffered heavy home losses to France and Wales. The victory against Scotland was their last win in the Six Nations, and they lost all games in the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 tournaments, a losing run of 22 games. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, they defeated Romania and Canada but lost to Ireland and France, repeating their performance of the previous three editions.
After another poor performance in 2016, losing all their Six Nations matches, Italy hired former Ireland international and Harlequin F.C. coach Conor O'Shea to coach the team; with him they also hired IRFU developmental director Stephen Aboud to direct youth programs aimed at strengthening the level of rugby in the country. In June, the Italian team lost to Argentina and won over the United States and Canada. On 19 November, Italy achieved a famous upset victory by defeating South Africa 20–18 which was Italy's first win against the Springboks in 13 attempts at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. This victory also marked their first win over one of the three big Southern Hemisphere nations (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa).
Wins against Tier 1 nations
Stadium and attendance
Before joining the Six Nations in 2000 Italy did not have a set stadium and played their home matches in various stadiums around Italy. From 2000–2011 Italy played all of their home Six Nations matches at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome. The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) announced, in January 2010, that the stadium would undergo an expansion, that will increase its capacity to 42,000. Continued delays to the start of construction meant that the revamp could not be completed in time for the 2012 Six Nations so all of Italy's home Six Nations games were moved to the Stadio Olimpico, also in Rome. The expansion of the Stadio Flaminio was originally promised to be complete by 2014. It was planned that upon completion of the renovation, the Italian team will move back to the Stadio Flaminio, however little was achieved and as of September 2016 the stadium was still in a state of abandoned disrepair. More Italians are coming to watch rugby union games and whereas before most of the fans at the Stadio Flaminio were away fans, now Italy has a good home crowd. Since moving to the Stadio Olimpico attendances have increased by huge numbers. The Italian team has drawn large crowds since 2008, particularly for Six Nations matches and for matches against New Zealand:
|1||80,074||New Zealand||14 Nov 2009||San Siro (Milan)|
|2||80,054||Ireland||16 Mar 2013||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|3||73,526||Wales||23 Feb 2013||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|4||73,000||New Zealand||17 Nov 2012||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|5||72,354||Scotland||17 Mar 2012||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|6||71,257||England||15 March 2014||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|7||70,000||England||14 February 2016||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|8||67,721||Scotland||27 February 2016||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|9||67,529||France||3 Feb 2013||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
|10||67,127||France||15 March 2015||Stadio Olimpico (Rome)|
Italy play in blue jerseys.
|Period||Kit manufacturer||Shirt sponsor|
|1991 Rugby World Cup|
|1995 Rugby World Cup|
|1997 European Nations Cup|
|2000 Six Nations – 2000 mid-year internationals||Canterbury||Alliance UniChem|
|2000 end-of-year internationals – 2002 mid-year internationals||Kappa|
|2002 end-of-year internationals – 2006 end-of-year internationals||Jaguar|
|2007 Six Nations championship – 2012 mid-year internationals||Cariparma|
|2012 end-of-year internationals – 2017 mid-year internationals||Adidas|
|2017 end-of-year internationals – 2018 mid-year internationals||Macron|
|2018 end-of-year internationals –||Cattolica Assicurazioni|
|Rugby World Cup||0||0||0||0|
|European Nations Cup||1||9||8||18|
Men's World Rugby Rankings
|Top 30 rankings as of 25 November 2019|
|*Change from the previous week|
|Italy's historical rankings|
|Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 18 November 2019|
|Northern Free State||1||0||1||0||0.00%||11||12||−1|
Italy entered the International Championship in 2000 when it became the Six Nations, and made a positive start by winning their debut match 34–20 against Scotland. They finished fifth in 2003 above Wales in the final standings, having defeated them 30–22, and were again fifth the following year above Scotland, after beating them 20–14. In 2006, Italy drew with Wales 18–18 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Italy's first three Six Nations match victories, in 2000, 2003, and 2004, had been in front of a home crowd at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome. However, on 24 February 2007, they defeated Scotland 37–17 at Murrayfield for their first away win in the competition. Two weeks later, they defeated Wales for the second time, 23–20 back in Rome. This was the first time that Italy had won two of their five games in the championship, and they finished the 2007 Six Nations Championship in fourth place.
Italy won the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy for the first time in 2011 with a close-fought 22–21 victory over France. Two years later, they lifted the trophy for a second time by defeating France 23–18. Italy also recorded a first Six Nations victory over Ireland in 2013, beating them 22–15, and equalling their best finish of fourth place in the final standings. On 28 February 2015, Italy achieved their second away win against Scotland, a tight 22–21 victory, but they have not won a game in the tournament since that date.
As of March 2019, Italy have won twelve Six Nations matches, seven of these against Scotland, two against both France and Wales, and one against Ireland. England is the only team that Italy have yet to beat in the championship.
|Outright wins (shared wins)|
|Home Nations||5 (4)||N/A||4 (4)||N/A||10 (3)||7 (4)|
|Five Nations||17 (6)||12 (8)||6 (5)||N/A||5 (6)||15 (8)|
|Overall||28 (10)||17 (8)||14 (9)||0 (0)||15 (9)||27 (12)|
Rugby World Cup
|Rugby World Cup||Qualification|
|Pool Stage||4||2||0||2||92||95||Squad||Automatically qualified|
|Pool Stage||4||2||0||2||74||88||Squad||Automatically qualified|
|Pool Stage||3||2||0||1||98||78||Squad||Automatically qualified|
Italy have competed at every Rugby World Cup since the competition's inception in 1987. Italy finished third in their pool at their first World Cup, defeating Fiji, but not making the finals. They did not make the finals in 1991, grouped in a tough pool with England and the All Blacks. At the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, they finished behind England and Western Samoa, but above Argentina in their pool.
In 1999 they did not make the finals, with their defeats by the All Blacks and Tonga. Italy won two pool games at the 2003 World Cup, defeating both Canada and Tonga, but lost to the All Blacks and Wales. Italy played the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Pool C, against New Zealand, Scotland, Romania and Portugal (who had been beaten 83–0 by Italy in the qualifiers), with the goal of reaching the quarter finals for the first time. However, in the crucial group match against Scotland, Italy were undone by indiscipline. Chris Paterson kicked all of Scotland's points in an 18–16 victory, despite Italy crossing the line for the game's only try.
Italy competed in the original European Championships from 1936–38, but World War II meant that the tournament would not resume until 1952. Italy then competed in these tournaments from 1952–2000. Italy achieved only one the victory in 1995–97 FIRA Trophy.
|Team||First place||Second place||Third place|
|Year||Host city||Winner||Second place||Third place|
The fifties: the European Cup, Italian positions
|Year||Winner||Second place||Third place|
The Nations Cup 1966–73
|Year||Winner||Second place||Third place|
The FIRA Trophy 1974–97
|Year||Winner||Second place||Third place|
Players and coaches
On 18 August 2019, Italy named their 31-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
- Caps updated: 4 October 2019
Recent call-up not selected
|20 May 1929||–||1||0||0||1||0|
|29 May 1930||–||1||1||0||0||100|
|1 November 1932||26 December 1934||4||3||0||1||75|
|26 December 1934||7 April 1935||1||1||0||0||100|
|7 April 1935||14 May 1936||2||0||0||2||0|
|14 May 1936||16 May 1936||2||1||0||1||50|
|1 January 1937||17 October 1937||5||2||1||2||40|
|6 March 1938||20 November 1938||1||0||0||1||0|
|20 November 1938||19 March 1940||2||1||0||1||50|
|19 March 1940||9 February 1941||2||1||0||1||50|
|9 February 1941||2 May 1942||–||–||–||–||–|
|2 May 1942||1||1||0||0||100|
|18 May 1947||27 March 1949||2||1||0||1||50|
|27 March 1949||26 February 1950||2||0||0||2||0|
|26 February 1950||29 July 1950||–||–||–||–||–|
|29 July 1950||4 October 1950||–||–||–||–||–|
|4 October 1950||25 February 1951||–||–||–||–||–|
|25 February 1951||1 August 1954||9||6||0||3||66.7|
|1 August 1954||22 December 1956||8||5||0||3||62.5|
|22 December 1956||8 December 1957||2||1||0||1||50|
|8 December 1957||19 July 1958||1||0||0||1||0|
|19 July 1958||10 April 1960||2||1||0||1||50|
|10 April 1960||22 April 1962||4||2||0||2||50|
|22 April 1962||8 December 1965||7||2||0||5||28.5|
|8 December 1965||28 October 1967||7||3||1||3||42.8|
|28 October 1967||24 May 1970||8||7||0||1||87.5|
|24 May 1970||25 October 1970||2||2||0||0||100|
|25 October 1970||10 April 1971||3||0||0||3||0|
|11 April 1971||27 May 1971||1||0||0||1||0|
|28 May 1971||19 February 1972||–||–||–||–||–|
|20 February 1972||25 November 1972||4||1||2||1||25|
|26 November 1972||14 February 1975||20||6||1||13||30|
|15 February 1975||1º April 1977||15||8||1||6||53.3|
|2 April 1977||1º May 1977||2||1||0||1||50|
|23 October 1977||23 October 1978||5||1||1||3||20|
|24 October 1978||24 October 1981||24||10||1||13||41.6|
|25 October 1981||9 November 1985||28||16||2||10||57.14|
|10 November 1985||4 November 1988||19||7||1||11||36.8|
|5 November 1988||29 September 1989||7||1||0||6||14.3|
|29 September 1989||31 December 1989||2||1||0||1||50|
|1 January 1990||30 August 1993||27||16||0||11||59.3|
|31 August 1993||19 June 1999||48||19||1||28||39.6|
|20 June 1999||19 November 1999||5||2||0||3||40|
|20 November 1999||26 April 2002||27||5||0||22||18.5|
|27 April 2002||18 April 2005||32||10||0||22||31.3|
|19 April 2005||30 September 2007||30||12||1||17||40|
|3 October 2007||30 October 2011||42||9||0||33||21.4|
|1 November 2011||31 May 2016||50||11||0||39||22.0|
|1 June 2016||17 November 2019||26||6||0||19||23.08|
|21 November 2019|
Player records (career)
|1||Sergio Parisse||Number 8||2002–2019||142||139||3||83||16||35||106||1||25.00|
|7||Andrea Lo Cicero||Prop||2000–2013||103||79||24||40||8||32||70||1||31.55|
|3||Carlo Checchinato||Number 8||1990–2004||83||73||10||105||21||0||0||0|
|Sergio Parisse||Number 8||2002–||142||139||3||83||16||0||0||1|
Last updated: South Africa vs Italy, 4 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only.
Most matches as captain
|1||Sergio Parisse||Number 8||2008–2019||93||18||75||0||19.35||68||13||0||0||1|
|3||Marco Bollesan||Number 8||1968–1975||37||15||20||2||43.24||21||6||0||0||0|
Last updated: South Africa vs Italy, 4 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only.
Player records (single match)
Most points in a match
|1.||Stefano Bettarello||Fly-half||29||1||2||5||2||1 July 1982|
|Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||29||0||1||6||3||5 February 2000|
|Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||29||0||4||7||0||10 November 2001|
|4.||Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||28||1||7||3||0||21 May 1994|
|5.||Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||27||1||2||6||0||20 December 1997|
|6.||Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||25||0||5||5||0||26 October 1997|
|7.||Luigi Troiani||Fly-half||24||0||12||0||0||18 May 1994|
|Diego Domínguez||Fly-half||24||0||0||8||0||1 October 1994|
|Mirco Bergamasco||Wing||24||0||0||8||0||27 November 2010|
|10.||3 players on 23 points|
Last updated: South Africa vs Italy, 4 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only.
Most tries in a match
|1.||Renzo Cova||Wing||12||4||0||0||0||10 October 1937|
|Ivan Francescato||Centre||20||4||0||0||0||19 June 1993|
|3.||15 players on 3 tries|
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