Italy in the Six Nations have always been the odd one out. In their 22-year history in the Six Nations not only have they never won the competition they have never finished with a winning record. It would also make sense that the longer they have been in the competition the better they would get, but the opposite has happened. They are now suffering their worst drought in the Six Nations, seven years without a win, so when do we get to the point of questioning their involvement in the competition?
The last few years in Italian Rugby have been bleak, their losing streak has coincided with an improving Scotland side. When they were last victorious in the Six Nations, it was against Scotland who their record against was fairly admirable in comparison to the rest of the competition. Italy had 7 wins to 9 losses against Scotland in 2015, now 7 wins remains, but they have built up 15 losses.
They are clearly getting left behind by the rest of the Six Nations, so it has to be time to consider either going back to Five Nations or opening the door to other countries. Unfortunately, the quality of European teams falls off a cliff when looking for a viable replacement.
Going back to the Five Nations would be the more sensible solution, even if it would mean less matches, it would also mean less pointless matches. This was exemplified by Ireland’s 57 – 6 thrashing of Italy this year. Did anyone even care about that match? Six Nation games against Italy are now feeling more like gloried friendly’s whose only benefit is giving some inexperienced players some game time.
Even given how poor Italy have been these past few years, realistically they won’t be gone for a long time. The only hope is that they will improve to the point where they can start to give the rest of the Six Nations a competitive match on a consistent basis, and they won’t automatically be the worst team in the competition.
There might be hope in this regard as it is a young Italian side that does have a few bright spots in it, with 15 of their squad being 23 or younger. Italy will now have to put their hope into young players like Paolo Garbisi and Federico Mori if they are to come out the other side of this drought. There is no doubt that the rest of the Six Nations is hoping for that too.