All the latest from the world of rugby
February 8, 2012
Posted by tom.hamilton on 02/08/2012
The best player in the world?
Sergio Parisse has his eyes set on the prize
© Getty Images
The Daily Mail's Chris Foy looks at what England can expect when they come up against Sergio Parisse.
"Sergio Parisse will lead Italy against England at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, saddled with a Test record which does nothing to reflect his status as one of the world’s greatest players.
The captain of the Azzurri has 84 caps but just 24 victories to his acclaimed name. The 28-year-old’s win percentage of 29 drops to a meagre 16 when it comes to the bread and butter of the RBS Six Nations. This will be the eighth time the Stade Francais No 8 has faced England, with all seven previous encounters ending in familiar defeat.
Yet, Parisse is lauded as one of the finest players of the era. In 2008, he became the first Italian to be short-listed for the IRB’s Player of the Year award."
April 3, 2010
Posted by Ruaidhri O'Connor on 04/03/2010
Irish home comforts ideal model for Pumas and Italy
The Irish provincial model should be a template for Italy and Argentina in the coming years, writes Tony Ward in The Irish Independent.
"For Italian and Argentinian rugby, this is their NAMA -- a watershed. Both countries are attempting to set in place a professional structure to keep the best emerging talent at home and to attract those who have already flown the coop back to where the heart is.
"Think back to the early days of professionalism: all the early signs pointed to rugby in this country following the path of soccer, with the vast majority of our elite plying their trade abroad. Some did emigrate and some are still away, but the number is minuscule, thanks in the main to the way in which Philip Browne and the IRFU have gone about their business.
"We all like to trot out the line that, on any given day, any one of the Six Nations can beat any other but, in the case of the Italians, is that really true? They have never beaten Ireland, France or England in the competition. However, on the back of entrance into the Magners League next season, the seeds for future Six Nations competitiveness are being sown. The arrival of Treviso and the new Aironi Region (a renamed Viadana) cannot come quickly enough."
February 16, 2010
Posted by Huw Baines on 02/16/2010
Sense of adventure
Mick Cleary, writing in The Daily Telegraph, has little praise for England or Italy following their Six Nations meeting in Rome.
"They made five line breaks, all prompted from the rear, and managed to trouble what has been an unyielding Italy defence. 'But why didn't they do that more often?' was the plaintive question on the lips of many at Fiumicino airport yesterday. If England are to prosper, and the game itself is to have casual spectators reaching for the replay, rather than the off, button, then they have to be bold. Mark Cueto, Delon Armitage, Mathew Tait and Riki Flutey all had their moments. But moments they turned out to be: the pulse rate soared only to return quickly to idle.
"Compare that to events at the Millennium Stadium, where there was adventure in the air and a belief that ball-in-hand was not the sign of a death wish. It is possible to retain possession through phases. It is not the mark of a madman to run with the ball. Trust your skills. Back your judgment. Have a crack.
"Admittedly Italy are not easy to play against. They are betraying the sport with their wilful disregard for doing anything but hoofing the ball to the skies. There are plans to increase capacity at the Stadio Flaminio to 44,000, making room for 10,000 more spectators. Masochists this way please. Yet the team spoke yesterday of their pride in getting so close to England. Well, they may be worthy, but they are dull."
February 9, 2010
Posted by Huw Baines on 02/09/2010
No margin for error
Mick Cleary previews a vital weekend for the England management as their squad prepare to take on Italy at the Stadio Flaminio in The Daily Telegraph.
"On such small margins might Martin Johnson be musing as his England squad shake off their post-victory celebrations to get themselves in the right frame of mind to protect their unblemished record over the Azzurri.
"Johnson's job was never really in jeopardy. Only a calamitous run of results, on the scale of a wipeout in the tournament, could have triggered such a turn of events. There has never been any desire at Twickenham for regime change, no whispers of discontent the like of which precipitated the demise of Ashton and Andy Robinson before him.
"Yet Johnson's reputation as a manager of substance has yet to be forged. Concerns persist and questions are raised. Johnson himself accepts that state of affairs. There is little doubt, though, that Saturday's win was a significant step. Anxiety has been quelled, time has been bought. England cannot afford to slip up at the Stadio Flaminio, and certainly need more vibrancy and polish."
February 6, 2010
Posted by Huw Baines on 02/06/2010
Peter Bills talks to Italy's fullback Luke McLean about shedding their 'easy beat' tag in The Irish Independent.
"It's a seldom publicised desire but a potent fact, nevertheless. Italy's rugby men begin their second decade in the Six Nations Championship this afternoon at Croke Park, determined to bury their image of the tournament's pushovers.
"Australian-born full-back Luke McLean says there is a growing urge to end what he calls their "easy beats" reputation. "We are faced by a big job," says the Benetton Treviso player. "But we are still enjoying it. The fact that we have had the same group of players together for a year or more now is a definite advantage, a real step forward. Everyone is getting used to how we all play and therefore we are playing more as a team rather than just individuals.
"We are trying not to be the easy beats now, we don't want that reputation any more. We are going to try and change that this year and put out some good performances."
January 28, 2010
Posted by Huw Baines on 01/28/2010
A Kiwi abroad
Peter Bills, writing in The Irish Independent, meets Kiwi Tim Manawatu, now playing in Italy for L'Aquila, the club devastated by an earthquake in 2009.
"His name won't strike a ready chord with you, but then, that won't surprise him. Tim Manawatu knows he doesn't exactly have a name as familiar as Dan Carter or Richie McCaw.
"No matter, this young man's life has been transformed since he got to Italy on his rugby odyssey; there really is no other way to describe it. Like all young New Zealand kids, he yearned to pull on the black jersey, to call himself an All Black. But that is a reward afforded to just the privileged few.
"However for Manawatu, there has come the stunning realisation that you don't have to play at the level of the All Blacks to earn an extremely pleasant living out of professional rugby in Italy, the rugby nation which plays Ireland in the Six Nations opener at Croke Park on Saturday week.
"Originally from Kaikoura, part of the Canterbury region on the south island, Manawatu took a leap into the unknown several years ago and has counted his blessings every day since."
January 26, 2010
Posted by Huw Baines on 01/26/2010
The Italian problem
Tony Ward reviews Ireland's Heineken Cup campaign and touches on the continuing problems faced by Italian sides in The Irish Independent.
"It's the equivalent in Olympic currency of three golds and a silver for our provinces in Europe.
"Munster, Leinster topped their pools and ensured home quarter-finals in the Heineken Cup, and Connacht did the same in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Ulster finished a close second in their Heineken Cup group and were desperately unlucky to miss out on the consolation of a place in the last eight of Europe's shadow competition.
"It is said you reap what you sow but, in Ulster's case, I'm not so sure as, yet again, the pools with an Italian presence - Treviso and Viadana - provided the two best runners-up, in Northampton and the Ospreys. That is the one real weakness in the system. Draw an Italian team in the pool and straightaway you're in with a double-route chance of qualification for the knock-outs.
"It re-emphasises the need to get the Italians' act together, to get the professional game there up to speed with the rest. We all want the Italian game to succeed but right now it is a huge albatross around the neck of the ERC."
November 6, 2009
Posted by Huw Baines on 11/06/2009
The Dream Team
Ahead of the November Tests, four of The Guardian's rugby scribes pick their current world XVs.
"The hits may be getting bigger but class is permanent. It will be interesting, even so, to see how many of this team are still pre-eminent when the 2011 World Cup kicks off in New Zealand.
"The autumn Tests will certainly tell us more about Jamie Roberts, so influential for the Lions, and the new French captain Thierry Dusautoir. Watch out, too, for the fast-rising Irish back-rowers Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip, Australia's Rocky Elsom and France's Maxime Médard."
February 22, 2009
Posted by Huw Baines on 02/22/2009
A Scotsman abroad
Overmach Parma fly-half Barry Irving, Scottish by birth, has some reservations about the plans to potentially include Italian sides in the Celtic League, in The Scotsman.
"Mallett's comments (or should I call them excuses) have led to a knee-jerk reaction to propose the inclusion of two Italian teams in the Celtic League next season. Who, where and how are all unanswerable questions at this point in time, but support for the proposal has not been well received by the clubs in Italy. With over 220 eligible players for Italy playing every weekend, the question of quantity has never been an issue. The theory is that two Italian sides playing in the Celtic league will raise the quality needed for players to develop into international players.
"What many officials who live the dolce vita have failed to notice is that a large proportion of Mallett's squad earn their living in other leagues around Europe. Other issues are the legalities of player contracts and whether the Celtic League will accept existing teams or would prefer new franchises. Rumours of merging teams in northern Italy, ignoring years of rivalry and in some cases mild hatred, have caused many to splutter into their espressos!
"As for me, I am happy to be playing at a club that wants me and am enjoying the lifestyle. Having spent four years at Glasgow in horizontal sleet, I certainly don't miss the training or playing but the city will always be close to my heart and its vibrancy and local humour is hard to find anywhere else in the world.
"It is impossible to predict the future, but I hope mine will include an occupation in sports journalism some day. Until that time I will continue to give 100% to my club and continue to support Scotland through thick and thin. Forza Scozia!"
November 9, 2008
Posted by Huw Baines on 11/09/2008
Wallabies left in a tight spot in Padova
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Growden reflects on Australia's late win over Italy in Padova, a game apparently decided by the narrowest of margins.
"The Italian protests [following Quade Cooper's late score] were just part of a confusing afternoon, which saw the match played on a field clearly smaller than the usual dimensions. The Wallabies team management had complained before the game that the length of the field was about five metres too short, the in-goal was minimal, and the width of the field had been tightened. But there was nothing anyone could do about that because the field was surrounded by an athletic track."