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The future of Italian Rugby

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby 4N » Tue, 17 Sep 2019, 14:58

Italy coach in waiting Rob Howley in trouble for betting on matches. They dodged a bullet here IMO, it would be an odd hire.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/rugbyuni ... ley-japan/

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby amz » Tue, 17 Sep 2019, 15:04

4N wrote:Italy coach in waiting Rob Howley in trouble for betting on matches. They dodged a bullet here IMO, it would be an odd hire.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/rugbyuni ... ley-japan/


O'Shea is in charge from 2 years and already change him? Somehow I missed this news.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby 4N » Tue, 17 Sep 2019, 15:16

It was reported last week that he would be replacing COS. The latter has been linked to a role with the RFU in England.

https://www.onrugby.it/2019/09/10/itali ... -dal-2020/

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby ihateblazers » Tue, 15 Oct 2019, 04:48

Credit to a comment I saw on the youtube highlights of the Scotland v Japan game, having seen Japan's success this world cup, can Italy take inspiration from it moving forward. Even with O'Shea's work with the academies, a lack of identity in terms of playing style seems to be an issue. Set piece dominance alone is not enough, as we have seen with recent developments in the game and even this is no longer a strength of the team. Why Italy hasn't been able to develop better goal and on field kickers has always puzzled me. Does an emphasis on athleticism and strength at academy level hinder the development of the player pool? Should there be a shift toward tactical and skill improvements instead. Where is Italy's point of difference.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby sk 88 » Fri, 15 Nov 2019, 20:16

https://www.onrugby.it/2019/11/13/pro14 ... -scartare/

Padova to replace Zebre in the Pro14?

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Fri, 15 Nov 2019, 22:48

This is bad news for one club: Rovigo. And by consequence local Top12. They'd lose both local rivals to PRO14 (Benetton before, now Petrarca...). The Veneto Derby is a highlight in the Italian league...
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Edinburra » Sat, 16 Nov 2019, 18:30

Interesting article , https://www.onrugby.it/2019/11/13/pro14 ... -scartare/

I can see the benefits of creating a Venetian derby but thought Italy were wanting to add more teams.
Also , I noted there was another reference to adding two more South African teams . Heard this a while ago so good to see this raised again

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby ihateblazers » Sat, 14 Dec 2019, 05:06

Does anyone know what sort of wages FIR are paying players in Zebre and Treviso? Obviously the teams are not able to pay t1 wages based on their own revenue. The FIR's budget has increased, largely due to playing in the Olimpico. But If the FIR are competing with French and English wages to keep players in Italy, is it really worth it? Surely it would be more cost effective to instead invest in grassroots clubs and regional academies for top clubs and lose the best players to foreign leagues if they get offers, where they will be playing with top players from around the world.

I don't understand rugby union's obsession with subsidising club rugby or outright paying for it from the international game.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Canalina » Sat, 14 Dec 2019, 07:21

Probably Zebre wages are known, but I don't know them
The idea, I think, was that having all the Azzurri playing together in two franchises would have helped the strength of the national team, this leading to more victories, these leading to more popularity of rugby, this leading to more funds for the federation (via tickets and sponsors) and more young players.
Things went at least in part differently: the popularity of rugby in Italy seems stagnating since several years ago and according to the rumors (the Federation doesn't offer data) the number of young players is decreasing (but the reason of that could be found in the de-natality: I've read in our italian rugby forum that until twenty years ago the number of new babies per year in Italy was 550,000 and now it is around 450,000).
I don't know how the things would have gone without participating in the Celtic League and letting the Azzurri to play spared in our national championship and in some foreign club: better, worse? It's difficult to say. I still think that creating two franchises was the right move (our clubs were and are not able to play in Europe by their own), but there's a not little part of italian fans that share your same thought: they think that we should disband Zebre, let Treviso return in the national championship and use the federal funds to help clubs and grassroots level.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Sat, 14 Dec 2019, 13:29

How they did believe that bringing teams from two small-to-meddium cities would make rugby popular and attract media/sponsors/new fans?

And to screw things more for the region where rugby is more popular they brought a club (Benetton Treviso) that has rivalries with its neighbours.

That's incredible.
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Canalina » Sat, 14 Dec 2019, 19:43

We must go slow with judgements, it's always easy to judge after the events.
What did the Federation have to do? Italy needed a dimension midway between the Six Nations and the national championship, to give international experience to our players and let them grow; the Celtic League appeared a good option. I still think it was the right move, at least on the paper.
The national championship has never been super-popular and it was already declining as number of spectators before the Celtic adventure. The leave of Treviso affected it, this is innegable, but I don't think that with Treviso competing in it the national championship would be, right now, a success; it would be a bit more popular then now, but just a bit.
On the paper Zebre and Treviso should have had the same role of the irish regions: Zebre representing the north-west, Benetton representing the north-east. But this part of the idea completely failed. No one in the north-west feels Zebre as his own team; they are just the Zebre, an italian franchise based in Parma. This happens, I suppose, because we italians were never used to think in terms of macro-regions: the north-west, the north-east, the centre... are just geographical expressions to us. I don't know if in Ireland the feeling is different. As Porcorosso said in the other thread, the dimension that seems fit for we italians is the town's one. We are crazy for the national team, and we love our city's team; all that in the middle, we don't care. But a strong national team can't have its basis in clubs of little towns like Calvisano (8 K inhabitants), Viadana (20 K), Treviso (85 K) and Rovigo (51 K), playing each versus the other; it needed stronger basis and the federation tried to give them to it

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Sat, 14 Dec 2019, 19:51

I am not judging after. I remember that was my first thought when it was anounced Italy would enter the Celtic League: why not rebuild the regional teams (Dogi, Lupi, Zebre)? They only brought back to live the Zebre after Aironi's failure. Obviously back then I thought the old regional teams had some appeal, which recently I found out they hadn't. So, yes, it makes sense they haven't thought more about when they launched it. Wales suffers the same, in fact. Many Welsh rugby fans don't connect with the regional teams. Only Ireland realy had strong regional teams identities.

When I think about PRO14, I always question why Rome is not involved, to use 6N's popularity as a way to get a couple thousand supporters each PRO14 match. I thought the most logical teams would be one based in Rome and one representing Veneto (not only Treviso), because of those 3 regional teams Veneto looks like for me the only one more real. Or do you believe a Venetian team woudn't draw any enthusiasm in the region anyway? Because cities are pretty close to make easy rotate matches between Padova, Treviso, Rovigo... Rome + all-Veneto would have more commercial/media appeal than the current set up I guess.

I remember FIR opened a bid for private franchises. Which means they totaly relied on the response of local market instead of driving it. There were 2 bids from Rome, BTW (one called Praetorians, that made the final list, and another one called SPQRugby... not sure who were behind them). An all-Venetian bid was proposed but never came to life - not sure why. I believe the only Venetian bid was realy Benetton Treviso. Viadana led the Aironi bid, while Calvisano led its own bid (the Duchi), instead of joining forces behind a Lombardian bid. I guess rivalries made Calvisano-Viadana and Treviso-Rovigo-Petrarca avoid joint ventures between them.

BTW, Parma clubs struggled since the Aironi-Zebre transition. The traditional Rugby Parma is now in Serie B only... I remember when they achieved a victory in Heineken Cup when Italian Super 10 was the top level.

EDIT: here you are the 2009 bids https://www.federugby.it/index.php?opti ... 16&lang=it
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Canalina » Sun, 15 Dec 2019, 07:32

I'm not an expert of Pro14 (I usually don't follow it if not by reading the italian results) so I don't know how the things precisely were and are, but I think that the main problem of a Roma's franchise would be the poorness of sponsorships. Rome is few industrialized, compared to the north of the nation. All those little industries that may give you an annual fee to have their name on the shirt (Calvisano's shirt is a sort of patchwork with maybe more than ten sponsors on it) are usually located in the north-east (Veneto) and in Lombardia (Milan, Calvisano...), but also in Emilia (Parma, the town of the Zebre).
As for the spectators, I think that the 50,000 Six Nations ones are not a warranty that a Rome's franchise would have a good follow. The love for the national team is much bigger than the one for the clubs and even bigger than the one for a franchise. Rome has two clubs in Top12 (the highest national championship) and they usually gather around 500 spectators in the home's games.
A Veneto franchise? I think that -as you suspect- the rivalries between the various towns is too high to make it a successful idea; it would be like to create a super soccer team fusing Milan and Inter: nor the Milan's fans nor the Inter's ones would love it...
It's hard to find the key to attract people. My town's club is this season in the first position of the Top12, ex aequo with other clubs; we have a relatively reach main sponsor and we won the national cup just few months ago. The enthusiasm should be at the top. In the last Top12 match, at home, there were, according to the newspaper, 150 spectators. In a town of around 250,000 inhabitants. The most part of those 150 spectators was 40 years old or older and basically all of them (all of us) were former players or friends of the players or girlfriends of the players or little mini-rugby players. If I recall correctly there were no one teenage spectator

PS: my town is 30 km from Parma and, despite the popular rivalry between the two towns, our rugby club has become a sort of Parma's colony: the coach is from Parma and the core's players are from Parma. Just two players from my town (Reggio) are in the main group but they usually start from the bench. So it's real that the proper Parma's clubs are in Serie B but more or less that city is expressing also a Top12 team, even if located in Reggio

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Sun, 15 Dec 2019, 12:44

But this would be different from Milan-Inter merge because Treviso, Petrarca and Rovigo would keep playing the Top12 and Challenge Cup. And different from the Welsh, Venetian regional identity is not artificial (I believe, you correct me) and the Dogi would be one of the original teams with a fancy name (what happens in Wales). But probably Benetton wanted only Treviso and they have the money.

However the Zebre is different. Wasn't FIR that created them and pays for them? So why not Rome? I understand the problem of local sponsor and that it is not easy to find for rugby a truly national sponsor (I guess FIR struggles with that). But if the Roman bid made the final 4 shortlist in 2009, a plan existed and maybe woud've a better long term investment.

It seems a more political decision (isn't FIR's chairman from Parma?) than anything + FIR left Flaminio.
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby io.porcorosso » Mon, 16 Dec 2019, 17:38

So.
It is pretty hard to try to value the many side of the Italian problem with their rugby.

But let's try it.

ROME
Forget the opinion that the Olimpico is full of Rome citizens. Mont of the public is from outside, mainly the North. Anytime Rome had provided a TOP12/Eccellenza/Super10 team, they were not able to create any stronghold of public. Even with a decent sponsorship the issue won't work.

DOGI
Even if I will be really glad to see them back [I define myself as a Venetian as nation, to give you the idea of how much I will be glad], they are more a selection of players playing to represent a part of the territory [or a country if you say], not a club. Letting them to play in PRO14 means settle them in a town, giving them a proper home. Thus we would be at the same point.

CLUBS
There's just a sport in Italy were there're clubs that collect fans outside their city: soccer, and not all of the teams can say to have this richness: Juventus, Milan, Inter, Rome, Lazio. All the other have to count on their neighbourhood to attract fans.
Rugby clubs are in the same position, bit with a lot less money and a lot less possibility to do a good marketing communication.

In any case, the grassroots of their potential base of fans is the same of all the other sport: the local social substrate.

We will have a good rugby when clubs will start to deal with it.

Cheers PR-WSM

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Mon, 16 Dec 2019, 22:15

Zebre averages about 2.000 people. You are telling us a Roman team coudn't put 3.000 people in Flaminio? If so, 6N is a huge fail.

I don't see that the Dogi would need to play all matches in the same stadium. They could split between 2 or 3. Their training base would be in just one place but home matches not necessarily, as distances between main rugby towns are short. The question is what sort of deal they would make with Venetian clubs. A very interesting model would be double header with Top12 clubs. It is a matter of setting deals with at least Petrarca, Benetton and Rovigo.
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Canalina » Tue, 17 Dec 2019, 07:10

victorsra wrote:Zebre averages about 2.000 people. You are telling us a Roman team coudn't put 3.000 people in Flaminio? If so, 6N is a huge fail.

I don't see that the Dogi would need to play all matches in the same stadium. They could split between 2 or 3. Their training base would be in just one place but home matches not necessarily, as distances between main rugby towns are short. The question is what sort of deal they would make with Venetian clubs. A very interesting model would be double header with Top12 clubs. It is a matter of setting deals with at least Petrarca, Benetton and Rovigo.

But we may see the things also in the opposite way: "if so, 6N is an enormous success".
If you may bring just 500 people to the national championship in Rome and around (hypothesis) 1500 in a Rome's based Pro14 match, the fact that 6N is able to attract dozens of thousand people at the stadium (even if numbers are unfortunately declining) is a fantastic surprise.

Zebre wanted to be a sort of Dogi, the name has been chosen right to give to the newborn franchise a link with the tradition of the Zebre, a sort of Italian Barbarians (the colors of the shirt are not casually the same) born in the 70s. The initial idea was to play not only in Parma but in all the north-west: they had an enormous and promising territory to explore, with Milan, Turin, Genoa... Indeed they played sometime in other cities, but if they then decided to remain almost always in Parma is -I suppose- because they've seen there's no great interest for the team outside its hotbed. Zebre were and are creating links with all the clubs of the territory, offering technical help and trying to make the fans of the local clubs feeling that Zebre are also their team, but the number of people at the stadium is more or less always the same. Maybe slightly increasing in these last seasons. Unfortunately things are rarely so simple as the theory seems showing us

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby sk 88 » Tue, 17 Dec 2019, 10:55

The problem with multiple gounds is selling season tickets.

Particularly in the area discussed with Zebre. With a potential Ventian one it is slightly more doable, but also the proposal is more split across more homes.

A little idea that is forming in my head regarding Italy is trying to follow the "Big Bash League" approach from cricket and starting totally again with new franchises across the country, on a limited schedule. Would need a lot of money.

A TV deal with a friendly broadcaster would be the crucial sticking point that makes it all fall down but as the saying goes "go big or go home".

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Tue, 17 Dec 2019, 13:44

But how many season tickets are they selling?

There are cases in the sports industry of teams playing in more than one venue. NRL, AFL, Munster in PRO14, Santos FC in Brazilian football, if I am not wrong one of the Osaka/Kobe team in Japanese baseball... you can deal with this. Of course you might choose one stadium to host 1/2 of the season matches + playoffs and other two hosting like 25%.
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Canalina » Mon, 23 Dec 2019, 13:57

Italian Peroni Top12 best scorers after round VI, on our blog

https://blog.rugby.it/?p=10550

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby ihateblazers » Sat, 28 Dec 2019, 10:04

Canalina wrote:I'm not an expert of Pro14 (I usually don't follow it if not by reading the italian results) so I don't know how the things precisely were and are, but I think that the main problem of a Roma's franchise would be the poorness of sponsorships. Rome is few industrialized, compared to the north of the nation. All those little industries that may give you an annual fee to have their name on the shirt (Calvisano's shirt is a sort of patchwork with maybe more than ten sponsors on it) are usually located in the north-east (Veneto) and in Lombardia (Milan, Calvisano...), but also in Emilia (Parma, the town of the Zebre).
As for the spectators, I think that the 50,000 Six Nations ones are not a warranty that a Rome's franchise would have a good follow. The love for the national team is much bigger than the one for the clubs and even bigger than the one for a franchise. Rome has two clubs in Top12 (the highest national championship) and they usually gather around 500 spectators in the home's games.
A Veneto franchise? I think that -as you suspect- the rivalries between the various towns is too high to make it a successful idea; it would be like to create a super soccer team fusing Milan and Inter: nor the Milan's fans nor the Inter's ones would love it...
It's hard to find the key to attract people. My town's club is this season in the first position of the Top12, ex aequo with other clubs; we have a relatively reach main sponsor and we won the national cup just few months ago. The enthusiasm should be at the top. In the last Top12 match, at home, there were, according to the newspaper, 150 spectators. In a town of around 250,000 inhabitants. The most part of those 150 spectators was 40 years old or older and basically all of them (all of us) were former players or friends of the players or girlfriends of the players or little mini-rugby players. If I recall correctly there were no one teenage spectator

PS: my town is 30 km from Parma and, despite the popular rivalry between the two towns, our rugby club has become a sort of Parma's colony: the coach is from Parma and the core's players are from Parma. Just two players from my town (Reggio) are in the main group but they usually start from the bench. So it's real that the proper Parma's clubs are in Serie B but more or less that city is expressing also a Top12 team, even if located in Reggio


Benetton are playing against some of the biggest names in Europe on a weekly basis. Sure, there is a small population in Treviso but wouldn't rugby fans from nearby towns/cities who want to see quality rugby come to watch? There is obviously a major problem here. Is it a lack of marketing? lack of community engagement? lack of tribalism? lack of quality? poor atmosphere/matchday experience? Maybe franchises from big cities like Milan, Rome would get better crowds but there needs to be more funding which obviously isn't there. I don't think that regional representative teams would make any difference.

To be fair I don't think that the Pro 14 has been a total failure for Italy. The Azzurri and franchises have improved in many aspects on and off the pitch (mostly professionalism and conditioning) but i firmly believe that the time has come to cut the cord and go it alone. The increased competitiveness of the national team will come from growing the game and getting more and more kids involved with better development pathways from academies and club systems. The Pro 14 only serves the top players and what success has come from it? What success is likely to come in the next 10 years? You have the market to have a professional domestic league and Pro 14 involvement will only stifle growth in the meantime. Work together with the union, let the league flourish, bring in foreign talent be it star players, journeymen, t2 Europeans/Africans/south Americans, bring in foreign coaches. For me the Pro 14 is not taken seriously enough by the Union's who run it as per Super Rugby and it will be more of the same.

As we see around the world, rugby does not have the popularity to sustain 2 levels of professionalism. The market doesn't exist outside of France. If the Top 12 was to resurface as the premier professional competition once more, the investment would surely rise. The funding from FIR would obviously increase as it would be diverted from the Pro 12 franchises. I also like sk 88's idea of a big bash league with franchises.

I still believe that a multi country leagues would be good for t2 european countries. Mainly to get the national teams more competitive so that the game can grow and then further down the line like Italy go it alone or have regional leagues (iberian, north sea, east europe etc.). Almost as a booster in the short term.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby victorsra » Sat, 28 Dec 2019, 14:11

Because Benetton is a club, NOT a regional team like the rest of PRO14. They past the whole history playing the neighbours. The other cities are rivals, specialy Rovigo and Petrarca Padova. They won't support a historical rival.
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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby ihateblazers » Tue, 31 Dec 2019, 00:11

victorsra wrote:Because Benetton is a club, NOT a regional team like the rest of PRO14. They past the whole history playing the neighbours. The other cities are rivals, specialy Rovigo and Petrarca Padova. They won't support a historical rival.


I get that but in other sports, fans will go to watch the top sports teams from nearby towns/cities. I think like in Wales the issue is a lack of visibility and perception of the competition. When it comes to regional identity, it is a red herring in Wales, most of the old rugby club fans switched to regional teams. They just haven't managed to attract many new fans. In Italy, would regional teams based in larger cities attract more fans, epecially if they had been implemented from the very beginning? Maybe, maybe not.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Edinburra » Tue, 31 Dec 2019, 03:46

[quote. For me the Pro 14 is not taken seriously enough by the Union's who run it as per Super Rugby and it will be more of the same.

As we see around the world, rugby does not have the popularity to sustain 2 levels of professionalism. The market doesn't exist outside of France. If the Top 12 was to resurface as the premier professional competition once more, the investment would surely rise. The funding from FIR would obviously increase as it would be diverted from the Pro 12 franchises. I also like sk 88's idea of a big bash league with franchises.

I still believe that a multi country leagues would be good for t2 european countries. Mainly to get the national teams more competitive so that the game can grow and then further down the line like Italy go it alone or have regional leagues (iberian, north sea, east europe etc.). Almost as a booster in the short term.[/quote]

I have been thinking about this comment a lot and it is an eye opener for me as it is not a pathway I had considered for the evolution of rugby. The comments about the Pro14 are spot on and is one of the most unattractive features of that league.
It is a very valid point that where teams are maturing as rugby nations that they explore professionalism in a cross border competition. Once they have built the infrastructure , it is an interesting concept that they would withdraw from a perceived larger competition and evolve their own domestic league for the improvement of their own game.
It would be interesting to see if this would be undertaken by other nations where the clubs are financed the unions. Lets say hypothetically , that Edinburgh and Glasgow were disbanded , the impact of putting the same level of investment into the Super 6 league would be astonishing. Imagine if the £10-12 million (rumoured not fact figures) used to finance those teams were spread across those clubs and they all developed a brand. Having 6 professional teams , would be a game changer for countries like Scotland and keeping on track for this thread , Italy.

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Re: The future of Italian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Tue, 31 Dec 2019, 23:25

Edinburra wrote:[quote. For me the Pro 14 is not taken seriously enough by the Union's who run it as per Super Rugby and it will be more of the same.

As we see around the world, rugby does not have the popularity to sustain 2 levels of professionalism. The market doesn't exist outside of France. If the Top 12 was to resurface as the premier professional competition once more, the investment would surely rise. The funding from FIR would obviously increase as it would be diverted from the Pro 12 franchises. I also like sk 88's idea of a big bash league with franchises.

I still believe that a multi country leagues would be good for t2 european countries. Mainly to get the national teams more competitive so that the game can grow and then further down the line like Italy go it alone or have regional leagues (iberian, north sea, east europe etc.). Almost as a booster in the short term.


I have been thinking about this comment a lot and it is an eye opener for me as it is not a pathway I had considered for the evolution of rugby. The comments about the Pro14 are spot on and is one of the most unattractive features of that league.
It is a very valid point that where teams are maturing as rugby nations that they explore professionalism in a cross border competition. Once they have built the infrastructure , it is an interesting concept that they would withdraw from a perceived larger competition and evolve their own domestic league for the improvement of their own game.
It would be interesting to see if this would be undertaken by other nations where the clubs are financed the unions. Lets say hypothetically , that Edinburgh and Glasgow were disbanded , the impact of putting the same level of investment into the Super 6 league would be astonishing. Imagine if the £10-12 million (rumoured not fact figures) used to finance those teams were spread across those clubs and they all developed a brand. Having 6 professional teams , would be a game changer for countries like Scotland and keeping on track for this thread , Italy.[/quote]

Italy is using the top down approach for the sport which has worked in some ways and failed in others. The national team is performing better than before (but the rest of 6N is getting even better than they are) but rugby is still a niche sport in the country. The idea seems to be that the 60 or so players in Pro14 will make the national team better -> more people will support them -> the Union has more money to invest in grassroots. At least that’s how I interpret it from the outside.

The issue with this is that it doesn’t seem to mesh with Italian sports culture which is driven by intercity club rivalries. Even Canalina above says that he isn’t a big follower of Pro14 outside of Italy which sort of blows a hole into the idea that Italians will care about watching stars from other countries playing here.

Italian rugby needs some serious grassroots investment. There need to be a lot more clubs across the country and far more kids playing the sport. Determining the problem is a lot easier than determining the solution though.

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