Connect with us
//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

6 Nations

Italy’s World Cup Squad Depth

Published

on

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Another year, another wooden spoon for the Italians. This is now the fourth tournament that they have gone winless, their last coming in Murrayfield back in 2015. Conor O’Shea has spoken at length about the project that Italian rugby is, and this year it is finally showing results. Kieran Crowley has coached Benetton to second place in their Pro14 conference, and while there may have been no wins, there has definite improvement internationally. They showed they are able to compete with the big boys, they can stay in games until the final whistle. The Azzurri’s biggest problem is that they have no killer instinct when in the opposition 22. The game against France was there for the taking, but so many chances went begging.

Embed from Getty Images

It seems now that Conor O’Shea has found what his strongest team is, and there is depth coming in positions where there was none before. With a full deck to choose from, Italy could have a very strong team indeed in the World Cup

Full-Backs/Wing

Matteo Minozzi missed this years championship but the little full-back lit up the championship with his dazzling footwork and pace. Jayden Hayward took his spot this year; while he wasn’t as box office in attack, the Treviso full-back was defensively solid, and was always good for metres in attack. Edoardo Padovani has played most of his international rugby at full-back, and is more than comfortable on the wing.  Zebre’s Mattia Bellini has been a fixture on the left wing in Conor O’Shea’s tenure, and is one of the best wings available.

Embed from Getty Images

Midfield

Michele Campagnaro is one of the best centres in Europe. Harlequins’ latest acquisition is one of those players that just seems to find space where there is none, and glides through tackles like a hot knife through butter. Injuries have meant we haven’t seen as much of Campagnaro in recent years as we would have liked, but he is a massive addition to the Italy backline when fit. Luca Morisi is a very dependable 12, and Marco Zanon looks promising.

Embed from Getty Images

Halfbacks

Italy have great depth at 10. Tommy Allan is an excellent playmaker and a threat with ball in hand. Carlo Canna can kick goals from way out and is always good for a jackal turnover. Ian McKinley is as good as the other two even though he’s only got one eye. Scrum-half stocks are not as good. Tito Tebaldi had a fantastic Six Nations, but other than him, there are no real standouts.

Embed from Getty Images

Back Row

Italy have a seriously good backrow heading into the World Cup. On either side of captain fantastic Sergio should be Benetton’s Sebastian Negri, and Gloucester’s Jake Polledri. Polledri made a huge difference to the Italian pack after missing the opening rounds of this years Six Nations, and is likely to be a fixture in the team for years to come. South African import Braam Steyn has been rock solid when called upon. Giovanni Licata and Renato Giammaroli are promising players that will push for a spot once Sergio Parisse has bid farewell to the Azzurri.

Embed from Getty Images

Second Row

Benetton second row Federico Ruzza was one of the standout performers for Italy after this year. He came on as a subsitute against Scotland, and after impressing with some carries in the wide channels, and a try assist was fixture in the remaining matchday squads. Tight five is where Italy struggle for depth. David Sisi is a solid player as is Dean Budd, but Alessandro Zanni is nearing the end of his career, and other than that, there is no one really stepping up. Apart from Ruzza, much of these players fall into the “solid but unspectacular” category, and the same is true of the props.

Embed from Getty Images

Front Row

Leonardo Ghiraldini, an Italian rugby legend has probably played his last game for his country. After an emotional exit off the Stadio Olimpico turf, a serious knee injury means he will not play at the World Cup. His loss while be felt big-time, and Luca Bigi will be the man to step up in his place. Andrea Lovotti is the incumbent loosehead, with the massive presence of Cherif Traore backing him up. Tiziano Pasquali has overtaken Simone Ferrari on the tighthead side. Italy have not got real depth in the front row, and will be praying for no injuries in that department

Embed from Getty Images

Starting Team

15. Matteo Minozzi

14. Edoardo Padovani

13. Michele Campagnaro

12. Luca Morisi

11. Mattia Bellini

10. Tommy Allan

9. Tito Tebaldi

  1. Andrea Lovotti
  2. Luca Bigi
  3. Tiziano Pasquali
  4. Dave Sisi
  5. Federico Ruzza
  6. Sebastian Negri
  7. Jake Polledri
  8. Sergio Parisse

6 Nations

Rory Best to retire.

Published

on

Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby when his current contract expires after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.

Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.

He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.

Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).

Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.

He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.

“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.

“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”

Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:

“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.

“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.

“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.

“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.

“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Richards Claims 2003 World Cup Winners Cheated, Woodward Denies

Dean Richards has made some serious accusations to the RFU.

Published

on

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Former Harlequins director of rugby and ‘Bloodgate’ scandal Dean Richards told the RFU that England’s 2003 World Cup winners cheated in a report.

He claims that his Harlequins side were not the only team using fake injuries to win games and that the World Cup winners were doing so too.

The document, which was uncovered by a documentary on talkSPORT revealed what Richards had said.

“The use of fake blood, cutting players, re-opening wounds, feigning injury in the front row, jabbing players with anaesthetic all occur regularly throughout the game,” he said.

When asked about giving examples by former RFU head of discipline Jeff Blackett he accused the English team.

“RWC 2003. England used faked blood,” he said.

Richards, who was banned from rugby for three years in 2009 for his part in the scandal in which players used fake blood to be taken off as blood substitutions has been shut down by 2003 coach Clive Woodward.

“This is simply not true. I am not sure why Dean raised this. I have never been involved in anything like this. It is ridiculous,” he said.

He also said that the claim was “absolute nonsense”.

It appears as though the RFU have nothing to worry about this time around as it seems like Richards is trying to stir the pot once more in the rugby world.

Continue Reading

6 Nations

French Rugby rule out foreign coach.

Published

on

Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been well documented that current French Coach Jacques Brunel will be vacating his role with the FFR post World Cup in Japan later this year and with all confirmed exits, speculation is always rife as to who will step up and take the role.

One thing that was confirmed this week was that the next head coach of France will not be Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones – or any other overseas coach that has been linked with the top job in French Rugby.

This decision was made following a referendum of the country’s amateur rugby clubs which ruled out a non-Frenchman taking charge.

59% of the clubs voted with a view that they would not support the appointment of a foreigner to replace Jacques Brunel after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

French Federation president Bernard Laporte has promised to respect the result.

“I welcome this democratic expression and of course I will respect that choice,”

Several names have been linked with the job. Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt who have both coached their last 6 Nations games with Wales & Ireland respectively would be shrewd appointments as would Sir Clive Woodward and John Mitchell were also thought to be on the FFR’s shortlist. Current Montpellier boss Vern Cotter – was also expected to be a contender but he too will now not be considered for the role.

Rumours are still strong regarding Ronan O’Gara taking some sort of coaching role with the FFR pre Rugby World Cup but nothing official has been announced to date.

Continue Reading

Trending