With the 2022 Six Nations in the rear view mirror, we’re looking at every team’s Championship. We’ll start at the bottom with Italy.
For five of the six teams in the self-claimed ‘rugby’s greatest championship’, ending the competition with four points on the table would be an unmitigated failure. For Italy, this was the next step forward.
If you missed the sight of Paolo Garbisi in tears after his kick went through in Wales, go watch it.
Seriously, go watch the last two minutes of that game. I’ll still be here when you’re done.
Italy have been on a slow rise for a couple years. The results haven’t been there, but the team has fielded younger players with increasingly higher potential. They’ve been competitive at the U20 level. They had moments last year that flashed potential. Even games this year felt tighter.
In fairness, the entirety of their campaign wouldn’t convert a critic. Consider the following:
Average of 5 Previous Championships
- Avg. Point Differential: -133.6
- Avg. Table Points: .2
- Point Differential: -121
- Table Points: 4
That’s an improvement of about 2.5 points per game over their prior 5 year average. On one hand, that’s still a hugely negative point differential. On the other hand, most sides would see an improvement of almost a penalty and acknowledge some progress, especially with a side this raw. The issue was Italy starting so far down the pecking order.
That said, Italy beat Wales. In Wales. They won for the first time in seven years.
The first win is the hardest. That’s done. They can head into Autumn ready to build for both the 2023 Six Nations and the World Cup in France.
Italy might’ve won one, but they still dropped four. In their loses, they were beaten by an average of 30.5 points. This side was never close to losing bonus points. They had a lot of demons to excise. Beating Wales is the start, not the finish.
And, lest we forget, this is the year when the Six Nations mused about trying to drop Italy altogether. Six Nations pushed back, which we covered heavily, but that doesn’t mean these the Championship is ready to keep Italy if a chance to bring in South Africa comes along in a few years. After beating Wales, the critics will have to go quiet for a while. That doesn’t mean the minds have changed. When the alternative is the defending World Cup Champions, the Italians will have to solidify their Six Nations status over the next two years. This isn’t over.
Italy deserved to have one result go their way. That doesn’t mean their close to escaping the basement.
The biggest issue they need to address is their point differential. Italy can get past the bottom spot with a win and bonus points. They won’t find many bonus points with an average loss of 30.5.
The biggest thing Italy needs is more time. Garbisi is 21. Capuozzo is 22. Lamaro is a whopping 23. This team isn’t one or two years away from winning silverware, but they have several years before the core of this team is even in their prime.
For Kieren Crowley, the goal will be consistency. Tighten up defense. Play a bit more in the opposition half. forget winning in the immediate term and focus on building this side to the point where they’re harder to beat. In 2023, close losses will be wins.
For now, a single win serves as the first glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
Final Grade: B+