Planet Rugby

Italy's half-back conundrum

29th January 2011 13:37

Share:

Paolo Canavoisio

Paolo Canavoisio: Plagued with injury

In eleven years of Six Nations rugby, Italy have become a vastly improved side. All parties would agree on that. But there remains one nagging problem.

They have a strong scrum, a solid defensive system and a proficient set of backs that are lacking only in the ability to 'create something out of nothing'.

Where they haven't taken any steps forward is in their half-backs. The 9 and 10 pairing of Diego Dominguez and Alessandro Troncon is revered so fondly in Italy, in part, because of the vacuum they left behind in their positions.

At scrum-half: Paul Griffin, Pietro Travagli and Simon Picone have all occupied the number 9 jersey for decent lengths of time. At 10 the list of pretenders is longer: Rima Wakarua, Roland De Marigny, Luciano Orquera, Ramiro Pez, Andrea Scanavacca and Andrea Marcato. While there have been successes in the post Dominguez-Troncon era--against Scotland in 2008 and in 2010 (N.B. 'Tronky' was still very much at large when Italy downed both Scotland and Wales in 2007)-- but no-one has managed to replace the golden boys of Italian rugby; not in the true sense of the word.

So what are Italy's half-back prospects in the current age? Starting with the scrum-halves Planet Rugby takes a look at those tasked with filling the void.

Eduardo Gori

The man currently in possession of the 9 shirt is the 20-year-old former U20 captain (it just about adds up). Known as 'Ugo', he made his debut for the national side this November in the 32-14 reversal in Florence. Praised as 'exceptional' by Nick Mallett after the match, the South African coach rewarded Gori with a full 80 minutes in Italy's crucial match a week later against Fiji. Something he hadn't granted to an Azzurri scrum-half in 19 Tests prior.

In his two performances so far he has succeeded in creating more time for his fly-half by consistently delivering the ball at chest height and on the front foot. In defence he has a great appetite for work, making 15+ tackles on his debut against the Wallabies. But his enthusiasm for the physical needs to be reigned in a touch; two of the four tries Italy conceded in November were as a result of Gori, at 12 stone 7 pounds, defending too close to the ruck and being driven out the way by heftier members of the opposition.

With only two caps to his name but with the warm-hearted backing of Mallet, Gori should start against Ireland on February 5. But will he stay there?

Paolo Canavoisio

He made the 9 jersey his own in 2006 but has since been plagued by injuries and inconsistency; earning the majority of his 30 test caps as a substitute.

In 2010 he returned and was in fine form, coming off the bench against England, Scotland and France to great effect. In those matches Canavoisio played with a Troncon-esque swagger and style; finding space for his forwards to bust holes in the opposition defence and releasing his backs only when they had a disorganised defence in front of them. He scored two tries to boot and went on to end the season as Italy's top try-scorer.

Rightly so he ousted Tito Tebaldi for the final match of the Championship, against Wales. But then, and this seems to be the eternal problem with Canavoisio, he turned in a hesitant and unsure performance which set the platform for Wales to record a 33-10 victory. All of which must have that left Nick Mallett reeling and confused in equal measure. However's Italy's coach still believes in Canavoisio and has selected him in the 24-man training squad for the Six Nations. If he gets another opportunity as a starter, Canavoisio must, this time, show that he's made of the right pasta.

Tito Tebaldi

Although not in Nick Mallett's Prima Squadra, the Aironi scrum-half would be the logical person to call up in the event of an injury to Gori or Canavoisio.

An emerging talent with ball in-hand and a stoic defender, Tebaldi found himself dropped to the 'A' squad during the Autumn for the scrum-half cardinal sin of not consistently finding his fly-half with his passing. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office against Argentina in Verona; but regardless Tebaldi will have to improve. Injuries permitting, (his own and those of his rivals) he could make a return towards the end of the tournament.

By Jack Zorab

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs Australia08:35
Argentina vs South Africa20:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs Castres20:45
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs Grenoble18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas vs Griquas19:10
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour vs Southland19:35
Friday , August 22
Waikato vs Canterbury18:05
Hawkes Bay vs Taranaki20:05
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs Wellington14:35
Counties Manukau vs Otago16:35
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs Auckland14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs Tasman16:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
Pumas 28 - 21 CheetahsPumas vs Cheetahs Report
Lions 41 - 13 Blue BullsLions vs Blue Bulls Report
Friday , August 8
Eastern Province Kings 16 - 35 Western ProvinceEastern Province Kings vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Super Rugby
Saturday , August 2
Waratahs 33 - 32 CrusadersWaratahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00