Italy’s national rugby team started the Six Nations tournament yesterday with their match against Ireland. Despite a 29-11 defeat the Italian team put up an excellent fight and look good to do well this year. Italy have been partecipating in the tournament since 2000 and although they are always classed as the underdogs the “azzurri” recorded a fourth place finish in 2007, and even in defeat, big and embarassing losses are becoming less frequent.
They play England, who won their first match again Wales, on 14th February at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome. The 30 man squad is coached by South African Nick Mallett.
Il rugby is fast becoming a popular sport in Italy, a country dominated by football (calcio), although basketball (pallacanestro) continues to be the second most popular sport. The country’s strongest teams are traditionally from the Veneto and North East of the country: Treviso, Rovigo, Veneziamestre and Petrarca of Padova.