What is Italian DNA? Are the current Italian team playing to their DNA? We ask these questions and more.
Before we look at the Italian DNA, a huge shout out must go out to Emanuele Miatello for taking the time to answer our questions and give an insight from a Italian fan. Thanks for this Emanuele.
1. Game Plan/style. What is the traditional style of play for the Test team?
Even if some of the scorelines might suggest otherwise, I believe the times Italy won was because a) their aggressive defence and physicality and b) their strength in the set piece. Italy would have been way more successful in the past if they managed to produce 10s that could convert this strength into points, but after Diego Dominguez, we haven’t really got a good kicker up until now. That said, at the time many of the players didn’t grow up in Italy (for example in the 2011 RWC game against Ireland 7 of the 15 players starting for Italy grew up abroad, including Castrogiovanni and Parisse, while “only” 4 “foreign” players started against SA in November) so I am not sure if this could be considered as DNA of the nation.
2. Who were the great players in the past, up until those just retired?
- Traditionally we had good scrummaging front rowers: Lo Cicero, Perugini, Castrogiovanni, Festuccia, Ongaro
- Bortolami was the mastermind behind Italy’s lineout for more than a decade
- Troncon, physical scrum-half with a lot of heart and work rate
- Dominguez is considered the best 10 Italy has ever had
3. Is there any pattern in those players? Their positions. For example, do certain countries produce talented players in certain positions?
I think the pattern here is that many of the home-grown players are technically inferior to other Tier 1 nations due to a lack of world-class coaching at the grassroots level (mainly handling and kicks). This is possibly why the homegrown talent is concentrated in the pack.
4. Is that country now playing a modern version of their traditional game?
Italy front row is still very competitive in my opinion. Ferrari is still young and, I believe, a world-class scrummager. Bigi (pronounced as Bejee) is a very good set-piece hooker. Gega is a good scrummager and good in loose, and then Lovotti and Zani can match a lot of other Tier 1 nations. I would like to put a word on Riccioni, the tight-head prop who captained Italy u20 team last year and now plays for Treviso. He’s currently out with a meniscus tear but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play for Italy in June or even in the last rounds of the Six Nations.
I personally believe Italy’s defence is not as physical as it used to be and lacks in aggressiveness (Favaro fixed this when he played). This said, it’s more structured than in the past.
5. Are key players in those old positions strong today?
Our scrum is still competitive, our lineout is as well when it works!! I think Italy lacks a consistent pair of 2nd rows. I still think the maul from lineouts is our main weapon.
We finally managed to produce a good goal kicker in Canna, who is also dangerous when he takes the ball to the line and offloads/pops it on the inside, but in my opinion is not a good enough distributor to allow our backline to attack at pace. Allan is better in this regard.
In conclusion, I think the game evolved away from the set piece, and if having strong set pieces wasn’t enough before, it is even less now. I think Italy is now working more on ball retention but struggles to produce dangers due to the inability of sucking up defenders by going over the gainline close to the breakdown. I think our backline is way more dangerous now than it used to be, but they struggle to find space to attack.
The 1014 review how they see the Six Nations DNA
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Author: The 1014 Rugby
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