My thoughts on Italy

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Post by robbo277 on Wed 13 Jul 2016, 12:46 pm

Question: Who is the 6th best international rugby team in Europe? What about the 6th best in the Northern Hemisphere?

If we take England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and France as a given in 1 to 5, who comes 6th?

The contenders for Europe are Italy and Georgia, with the additional contender for the Northern Hemisphere being Japan.

Italy are the obvious choice as the sixth nation in the 6 Nations and designated a "Tier 1" nation by World Rugby, but according to the World Rugby Rankings, they're only the 7th best team in Europe and the 8th best in the Northern Hemisphere.

RankCountryPoints
11Georgia75.23
12Japan74.95
13Italy72.23
The World Rankings don't purport to predict the future, but if you look at the "+3" rule for playing at home, Italy would be marginal favourites at home against Japan, evens if they were at home against Georgia but underdogs if they played in Georgia or Japan. But obviously the only way to know for sure would be to play these games.

However, looking at games that were actually played, while most of us have been following the tours in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it's worth looking at what else went on in the summer.

The Scots will be well aware of how Japan got on, with Japan losing both tests at home 13-26 and 16-21 to a Scotland side which, to my mind at least, has improved since the Rugby World Cup. Japan also beat Canada in Canada 22-26 prior to the Scotland series. For what it's worth in April and May, Japan also won the Asian Rugby Championship, winning home and away matches against Hong Kong and South Korea with 4 try bonus points and an average scoreline of around 60-6.

Japan's record in 2016 is therefore played 7, won 5, lost 2. This is made up of: 0/2 vs Tier 1, 1/1 vs Tier 2, 4/4 vs Tier 3.

Looking at Italy, they lost away in Argentina (30-24), but won away games in USA (20-24) and Canada (18-20), following up on their Six Nations whitewash (with a record number of tries conceded).

Italy's record in 2016 is therefore played 8, won 2, lost 6. This is made up of: 0/6 vs Tier 1, 2/2 vs Tier 2 and no games against Tier 3.

Finally, Georgia. Having won a Grand Slam in the season of the 2016 European Nations Cup, they went on a Pacific Islands tour. After a 19-19 draw with Samoa, Georgia beat Tonga (20-23) and Fiji (3-14).

Georgia's record in 2016 is therefore played 8, won 7, drawn 1. This is made up of: no games against Tier 1 nations, 6.5/7 vs Tier 2 and 1/1 vs Tier 3.

So Italy have by far the worst record over the year, which will explain their ranking, but that can be explained by the make-up of the games. These 3 countries are unbeaten in 15 games against other Tier 2 and Tier 3 Nations, and are winless in 8 games against Tier one countries. Italy, with the lion's share of these Tier 1 games, therefore have the worst record as they have had the most difficult season.

The disparity is, therefore, why are Italy entitled to so many more Tier 1 games than positional rivals Georgia and Japan? If we extended this analysis to include Fiji (ranked 10th in the world), Samoa and Tonga (14th and 15th), we would see the same kind of affect with none of these teams getting the same level of Tier 1 exposure. Without discussing the problems with potential solutions of getting Tier 2 nations more games against Tier 1 nations, can we firstly all agree that Japan and Georgia, as well as the 3 Pacific Island nations, are being hard done-by in terms of getting regular games against Tier 1 opposition when compared to Italy?

Since being promoted to the Six Nations in 2000, Italy have never really arrived as a Tier 1 nation, their clubs are perennial whipping boys in the Champions Cup, and now their Under-20s have recently been pipped to 10th place in the Junior World Cup by Georgia. My question is therefore, why are we persisting with Italy as a Tier 1 nation? Why are they still guaranteed regular access to the Six Nations and the Champions Cup in Europe, when they are consistently on a level with Tier 2 nations?

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Post by Rugby Fan on Wed 13 Jul 2016, 1:39 pm

robbo277 wrote:..But obviously the only way to know for sure would be to play these games....
Italy played Japan in Tokyo as recently as June 2014. They lost 26-23. It was the first time Japan had beaten Italy.

http://en.espn.co.uk/scrum/rugby/story/230549.html

Later that year, Japan travelled to Georgia for a Test. They lost 35-24. Capacity crowd of 20,000 was happy.


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Post by LordDowlais on Thu 14 Jul 2016, 3:08 pm

Italy are a noose around the neck of other NH countries. They have been at the top table for over a decade but have steadily gotten worse.

They offer nothing in the 6N, and the less said about their sides in the Pro 12 the better. The facts are the 6N are usually won on who has beaten Italy by the most.

In my opinion they need to up their game, they need to be told that if do not show signs of improvement then they are out and somebody else can have a go.

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Post by Irish Londoner on Thu 14 Jul 2016, 4:17 pm

I would assume the problem is that just cutting Italy loose would be very emotive in the context of rugby politics, "growing the game" and all that, and to be honest replacing them with another European side at this point - Georgia ? Romania ? would just mean someone else would come bottom (usually) and the points difference issue would not go away either.
Could the answer be to change the team from purely Italy into some sort of "European Barbarians/Lions" side, with the best players of all the European countries invited to put players in, "home" games could be shifted between the countries involved and same with the TV money.
Might not be feasible but the threat might just give Italian rugby a kick up the bottom !

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Post by LordDowlais on Thu 14 Jul 2016, 4:20 pm

Irish Londoner wrote:Might not be feasible but the threat might just give Italian rugby a kick up the bottom !

I think that is what is needed more than anything IL. Perhaps the threat of them being replaced by a higher ranked team will make the Italians endeavour to improve.

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Post by Hazel Sapling on Thu 14 Jul 2016, 5:14 pm

I think Italy are starting to sort out their structures and due to the problems with the ERCC, a lot of progress being made with Treviso was lost (ignoring the Aironi issues or the failure to place a team in Rome).

They are like Scotland in that they have finally started building proper academy sides. Connor O'Shea should be an upgrade and 3-4 years from now their academy system should start paying off (having started 2-3 years ago).

As for Georgia, strong 2nd tier side who are Italy equivalents. They need more exposure to Tier 1 and there should be a discussion over creating a wider European tournament by moving the international window to May/June leading into the tours against the Southern Hemisphere. Allows domestic competitions to be continuous and allows expansion of international competition. It will not happen for a long time.

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Post by Shifty on Sat 16 Jul 2016, 10:27 am

Personally I don't like the thought of people wanting to remove Italy. Adding them was a good thing if nothing else but to fill the spare weekend. Finally they earned the right to join, they beat France, Scotland and Ireland, before joining the 6 Nations, and have since beaten Wales.

With regards to Georgia, has anyone looked at where they are on the map? Italy is a 2 hour flight, Georgia is a 6 hour flight.

I do think we need to do more to help European countries, but for me it's a case of creating a proper European Cup. People laughed at the football European cup at the start, as people laughed at the rugby World Cup, but both competitions have grown over time. Even if we run the competition over the same period as the Lions for a few tournaments there is no reason it could not work. Granted second teams would be largely used, but it's still something positive.

Maybe even better might be to have a Afro-Eurasia Cup (covering the land locked continent). Having the Six Nations (6 teams), Six Nations B (6 teams), 2 from Africa (South Africa, and Nambia), and 2 from Asia (Japan and South Korea or Hong Kong).
In 4 pools of 4 teams. Going straight into Semi finals, and then, finals, 3/4 place play offs, so everyone plays 5 games, and gets placed from 1 to 16.

Kicking Italy out as a means of promoting Georgia is self defeating. It would kill the profesisonal game in Italy, for the sake of promoting a country who basically exports all their players to France.
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Post by robbo277 on Tue 19 Jul 2016, 9:02 pm

Shifty wrote:Personally I don't like the thought of people wanting to remove Italy.  Adding them was a good thing if nothing else but to fill the spare weekend.  Finally they earned the right to join, they beat France, Scotland and Ireland, before joining the 6 Nations, and have since beaten Wales.

With regards to Georgia, has anyone looked at where they are on the map?  Italy is a 2 hour flight, Georgia is a 6 hour flight.  

I do think we need to do more to help European countries, but for me it's a case of creating a proper European Cup.  People laughed at the football European cup at the start, as people laughed at the rugby World Cup, but both competitions have grown over time.  Even if we run the competition over the same period as the Lions for a few tournaments there is no reason it could not work.  Granted second teams would be largely used, but it's still something positive.  

Maybe even better might be to have a Afro-Eurasia Cup (covering the land locked continent).  Having the Six Nations (6 teams), Six Nations B (6 teams), 2 from Africa (South Africa, and Nambia), and 2 from Asia (Japan and South Korea or Hong Kong).    
In 4 pools of 4 teams.  Going straight into Semi finals, and then, finals, 3/4 place play offs, so everyone plays 5 games, and gets placed from 1 to 16.  

Kicking Italy out as a means of promoting Georgia is self defeating.  It would kill the profesisonal game in Italy, for the sake of promoting a country who basically exports all their players to France.  

But why are Italy given a leg up over other countries? Yes they won some games in the 90s, but their recent record against T1 teams (for the amount of games they play) is abysmal. Georgia, on the other hand, get next to no exposure. I'm not saying that Italy should be kicked out, that we should have promotion and relegation, but I think there is something inherently unfair in one average nation "protected", while others are held back.

I think a European Cup when the Lions are on could be a good move and probably a good start. Would probably be the death of the Lions, although I think the Lions should be picked AFTER the National squads and sent to new places (e.g. North America), although national coaches could grant players dispensations to go play for the Lions (as the jersey would still have some prestige).

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Post by propdavid_london on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 9:16 am

Its still the best away game I have ever been too.......
That's enough for me, and while Italy aren't consistently competitive they have beaten Tier 1 nations before.
France 23 - Italy 21 last season that was a close game.
I know the opportunities are limited for other Northern Hem nations but I wouldn't want to expel Italy from the 6N either.

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Post by Cyril on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 10:05 am

Remove Italy but don't replace them with Georgia (or whoever). Keep the tournament strong rather than diluted.

I'd go further and advocate a 4 Nations with home and away ties (only one extra game from what we currently have).

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Post by Poorfour on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 10:59 am

I think this is the wrong time for this conversation. Appointing O'Shea is a statement of intent - he's got a track record of developing talent at both club and international level (was Head of Elite Player Development at the RFU before being at the English Institute of Sport and Quins), and as has been mentioned above their academy system is beginning to work.

I doubt Italy will challenge for 6N titles any time soon, but they will be looking to take scalps more regularly. All of which said, if we do (as now seems more possible) restructure the global season, I hope the IRB includes a commitment to give Tier 2 nations - both European and Pacific Islands - more game time.

One possible option is for something akin to the Churchill Cup - a European tourno for the Saxons, Wolfhounds, maybe South Africa A etc to play Italy, Georgia etc while the end of season tours are on, with equivalents in Australasia and the Americas.
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Post by lostinwales on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 11:51 am

Poorfour wrote:I think this is the wrong time for this conversation. Appointing O'Shea is a statement of intent - he's got a track record of developing talent at both club and international level (was Head of Elite Player Development at the RFU before being at the English Institute of Sport and Quins), and as has been mentioned above their academy system is beginning to work.

I doubt Italy will challenge for 6N titles any time soon, but they will be looking to take scalps more regularly. All of which said, if we do (as now seems more possible) restructure the global season, I hope the IRB includes a commitment to give Tier 2 nations - both European and Pacific Islands - more game time.

One possible option is for something akin to the Churchill Cup - a European tourno for the Saxons, Wolfhounds, maybe South Africa A etc to play Italy, Georgia etc while the end of season tours are on, with equivalents in Australasia and the Americas.

The Churchill cup was a great concept and the Euro tourney you are talking about is a great idea. The big problem is who would pay for it.

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Post by Poorfour on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 12:16 pm

lostinwales wrote: The Churchill cup was a great concept and the Euro tourney you are talking about is a great idea. The big problem is who would pay for it.

My assumption is that it wouldn't be that costly to run provided the tv coverage could be sold. Plus, isn't the IRB's bond from the RWC supposed to fund exactly this kind of development as well as grassroots stuff?
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Post by propdavid_london on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 5:15 pm

I would watch a competition like that - but with the player burnout issue for top players constantly under discussion then this is going to be a sticking point.
For the RFU it would require greater control over Saxons squad players 'or as much control as they have over EPS' .
With the current club fixtures also being scheduled over international windows that will mean more players unavailable for club - diluting the club competition further of top players.
Is this sustainable for the wolfhounds and or the New Welsh A side?


There are a lot of issues to resolve - I did like the Churchill cup though, great concept

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Post by George Carlin on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 7:07 am

I think we are all missing the main point, which is that Italy is a joy to visit for international matches and this is by far the most important characteristic.

I now have my favourite restaurant just a squirt in a cab from the stadium. I can get a fabulous risotto prima vera and a bottle of Barolo for no money and all and last time I was there the duty manager was so attractive I thought about her every day for a week afterwards.

Come on, people. Bigger picture.
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Post by Welly on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 9:03 am

Japan has more to do with SANZAR than Europe IMO so shouldn't be in the equation.

It's hard to judge this, a relegation system could cripple Italy and maybe even Scotland, but it could allow a country like Georgia to flourish.

You could change the system completely and have Pools but how do you work out the groups? 2 pools of 4 with
Pool A: England, Wales, Scotland, Romania
Pool B: Ireland, France, Georgia, Italy
with the top 4 playing in another round robin for the championship.
So England, Wales, Ireland, France would play each other, and Scotland, Romania, Georgia, Italy could play each other say. With the pools changing every 2 years.

That would be 1 game extra IMO though.

Personally i think that could work and could allow for expansion when wanted, but it is to big a change IMO.

Any other way and it could do some big damage to the system.


What with the emerging Italy team back up and Wales bring in the A team we could also see a return of the A league six nations.
Emerging Italy
England Saxons
Irish Wolfhounds
Wales A
Scotland A

And i think Georgia would be up for it due to a big gap between U20 and Senior rugby.

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Post by LordDowlais on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 9:33 am

Wales cannot sustain an A team, look how the regions struggle when the proper Welsh team takes the players from the regions, not unless, the A team is made up with semi pro players from the Welsh Prem.

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Post by Welly on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 9:39 am

LordDowlais wrote:Wales cannot sustain an A team, look how the regions struggle when the proper Welsh team takes the players from the regions, not unless, the A team is made up with semi pro players from the Welsh Prem.

WRU have said it wants a A team I imagine it is more for a summer tour though, would imagine players like Owen Williams will be the type of players wales would target.

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Post by Sin é on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 10:05 am

An A League 6Nations might work with teams of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia and Romania, leaving out the 2 weakest 6Nations teams. If either Georgia or Romania (with their first team) manage to win the A 6 Nations, they should then be given a chance to play in the real 6Ns (or 7 Nations maybe).

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Post by marty2086 on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 10:14 am

Sin é wrote:An A League 6Nations might work with teams of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia and Romania, leaving out the 2 weakest 6Nations teams. If either Georgia or Romania (with their first team) manage to win the A 6 Nations, they should then be given a chance to play in the real 6Ns (or 7 Nations maybe).


I doubt England would want to be part of it as they can earn an extra few quid with the Saxons going to the SH teams and Italy and Scotland maybe have more to gain from being part of it.

Overall it would be a good idea and offer an opportunity for everyone to develop players, that's why I'd do it for a few years before looking at linking up the two competitions

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Post by Sin é on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 12:54 pm

marty2086 wrote:
Sin é wrote:An A League 6Nations might work with teams of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia and Romania, leaving out the 2 weakest 6Nations teams. If either Georgia or Romania (with their first team) manage to win the A 6 Nations, they should then be given a chance to play in the real 6Ns (or 7 Nations maybe).


I doubt England would want to be part of it as they can earn an extra few quid with the Saxons going to the SH teams and Italy and Scotland maybe have more to gain from being part of it.

Overall it would be a good idea and offer an opportunity for everyone to develop players, that's why I'd do it for a few years before looking at linking up the two competitions

England and Ireland are the only that have regular games. No money in it for the Saxons in the SH. All the cash is in the Six Nations. The reason why I left out Scotland and Italy out of it is that they are the least likely to be able to field a 2nd team.

If there are no club games during the 6Ns, there is no way of keeping players fit who don't make the 23 every week for the first team.

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Post by Welly on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 1:04 pm

Sin é wrote:
marty2086 wrote:
Sin é wrote:An A League 6Nations might work with teams of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia and Romania, leaving out the 2 weakest 6Nations teams. If either Georgia or Romania (with their first team) manage to win the A 6 Nations, they should then be given a chance to play in the real 6Ns (or 7 Nations maybe).


I doubt England would want to be part of it as they can earn an extra few quid with the Saxons going to the SH teams and Italy and Scotland maybe have more to gain from being part of it.

Overall it would be a good idea and offer an opportunity for everyone to develop players, that's why I'd do it for a few years before looking at linking up the two competitions

England and Ireland are the only that have regular games. No money in it for the Saxons in the SH. All the cash is in the Six Nations. The reason why I left out Scotland and Italy out of it is that they are the least likely to be able to field a 2nd team.

If there are no club games during the 6Ns, there is no way of keeping players fit who don't make the 23 every week for the first team.


You know Scotland, England and ireland have been the only European A teams to regularly field A teams during the 6n's.

http://www.scottishrugby.org/match-report/scotland-vs-england-saxons-fri-31012014-1930

Scotland are fine.

Also COS reluanched the emerging italian side this season as well using mainly 4th choice club players like Brugnara in Leicester.

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Post by marty2086 on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 1:34 pm

Welly, Emerging Italy have been going for 10 years straight

Im pretty sure the RFU received a few quid for the Saxons games over the summer, which is more than they would get from a 6Ns A tournament as theres no tv money for it

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Post by Sin é on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 2:01 pm

marty2086 wrote:Welly, Emerging Italy have been going for 10 years straight

Im pretty sure the RFU received a few quid for the Saxons games over the summer, which is more than they would get from a 6Ns A tournament as theres no tv money for it

If there is no club rugby during the 6Ns, there would be tv interest - hold the games in regional stadiums (like Leicester, Thomond, Ravenhill etc). and stage the games that when the Senior team is away, the As are at home.

I don't think it would cost a huge amount to organise anyway - just larger national camps.
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Post by Sin é on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 2:05 pm

Welly wrote:
Sin é wrote:
marty2086 wrote:
Sin é wrote:An A League 6Nations might work with teams of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia and Romania, leaving out the 2 weakest 6Nations teams. If either Georgia or Romania (with their first team) manage to win the A 6 Nations, they should then be given a chance to play in the real 6Ns (or 7 Nations maybe).


I doubt England would want to be part of it as they can earn an extra few quid with the Saxons going to the SH teams and Italy and Scotland maybe have more to gain from being part of it.

Overall it would be a good idea and offer an opportunity for everyone to develop players, that's why I'd do it for a few years before looking at linking up the two competitions

England and Ireland are the only that have regular games. No money in it for the Saxons in the SH. All the cash is in the Six Nations. The reason why I left out Scotland and Italy out of it is that they are the least likely to be able to field a 2nd team.

If there are no club games during the 6Ns, there is no way of keeping players fit who don't make the 23 every week for the first team.


You know Scotland, England and ireland have been the only European A teams to regularly field A teams during the 6n's.

http://www.scottishrugby.org/match-report/scotland-vs-england-saxons-fri-31012014-1930

Scotland are fine.

Also COS reluanched the emerging italian side this season as well using mainly 4th choice club players like Brugnara in Leicester.

Italy has had an emerging side at the Tibilisi Cup in 2015 - they beat Georgia 26-10. Emerging Ireland beat them 25-0.
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Post by Welly on Tue 16 Aug 2016, 2:15 pm

marty2086 wrote:Welly, Emerging Italy have been going for 10 years straight

Im pretty sure the RFU received a few quid for the Saxons games over the summer, which is more than they would get from a 6Ns A tournament as theres no tv money for it

Sky showed the England Saxons games v Scotland A and Irish wolfhounds during the 2014 six nations.

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Post by international198 on Thu 18 Aug 2016, 6:02 pm

There are two rest weekends in the Six Nations. There's therefore room for 2 more teams. Therefore Georgia and Romania could join the tournament without a problem.

Teams like England would not need to field their best XV versus Italy, Georgia and Romania. They could play their second XV and still win. So still plenty of time for rest.

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Post by 123456789 on Sat 20 Aug 2016, 2:15 pm

Given the way the game is becoming more and more about money I think it's hard to envisage Italy being replaced by any Eastern European country. Although given the way his summer is going John Inverdale could find himself exiled to Tbilisi so it wouldn't be too inconvenient for him.
Whether we like it or not the glamour and history that the city of Rome gives the Six Nations supersedes what Italy bring to the pitch. Fundamentally I disagree with jettisoning teams because they keep losing. What if we bring in Georgia or Romania and within 12-15 years they're still not competing? Do we kick them out too. Or what about if Wales have a poor decade (believe it or not Welsh Rugby had a blip between the seventies and 2005), or even England? What it Scotland's revival once again faulters or France's decline continues? Rugby is a cyclical game and we won't expand the game by promoting one country at the expense of the other won't help to expand our game. The solution is to find a way of creating a system that would allow more than one team to regularly test themselves at a higher level.

That's why a European Cup is the solution, if we were to hold it during Lions years, then the stronger home nations wouldn't be too good for the rest of the teams, France would obviously become the favourites but given the way their domestic tournaments work I'm sure they would relish the chance to rest their best players. More importantly it would expose our players to knockout rugby.

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Post by propdavid_london on Tue 20 Sep 2016, 4:45 pm

I like it....lets do it.
Oh, there is the problem - none of us have any clout!

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Post by propdavid_london on Wed 28 Sep 2016, 2:33 pm

There is talk of Alex Lozouski of Sarries (formerly Wasps) being dual qualified for Italy and England. And COS has been in communication with him.
Sounds like he doesn't want to tie his colours to any particular mast at the moment until he has to.


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