State of the Nation: Italy

Date published: November 5 2015

As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Italy.

A dispiriting tournament for Italy at least finished with a win against Romania that secured their place at the 2019 World Cup, but the Azzurri have still never reached the last eight of the tournament.

Jacques Brunel steps down after a mixed four years in charge, but there is a real sense that this is a team in decline.

Sergio Parisse played just 65 minutes in the tournament, and it was notable how much weaker Italy were without him. While he is not about to retire, at 32, there’s a chance that he’s played his last World Cup.

In fact he will give more details over his future at both club and international level next week, and any potential retirement would be a hammer blow for Italy.

The likes of Martin Castrogiovanni, Mauro Bergamasco and Marco Bortolami are all either at the tail end of their careers or retiring altogether.

And it is the pack that is a real concern, with Treviso and Zebre’s recent struggles making life tough for young players coming through.

The front-row is aging, and beyond Joshua Furno and Simone Favaro, they look short of top quality forwards coming through.

While Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi and Leonardo Sarto are all promising backs, it will be hard for them to shine if there is no platform up front.

The job of turning things around is a huge one, and as yet Brunel’s successor has not been named.

Reports in Italy have linked Conor O’Shea to the job, while Mike Catt and Ronan O’Gara have been mentioned as potential backs coaches. Those seem unlikely, with O’Shea very much in place at Quins.

Rumours of Fabien GalthiƩ have also quietened down recently, so it remains a mystery as to who will lead the team in the 2016 Six Nations.

As Georgia continue to improve, there is pressure on Italy to justify their spot in the tournament, but as the club game struggles, it’s hard to see the national team turning the corner any time soon, even if a couple of their age group sides have shown signs of life this season.