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Italy's World Cup squad has gone on strike over tournament bonuses

Training did not take place this morning in Villabassa after the disagreement.

ITALY’S PREPARATIONS FOR the Rugby World Cup have hit a worrying early roadblock after the Azzurri’s players went on strike in relation to financial bonuses for the global tournament.

Giulio Bisegni, Luca Morisi and Tommaso Allan celebrate winning Italy beat Scotland in this year's Six Nations but are ranked only 15th in the world. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

The FIR [Federazione Italiana Rugby] this afternoon announced that it has acknowledged the players’ concerns over a bonus system that would reward a strong overall performance at the World Cup with a pre-agreed fee.

It is understood the Italian players’ preference is for match-by-match payments.

FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi says the governing body remains confident that “common sense will prevail” as the players and administration come to an agreement, but for now the Italians’ pre-World Cup camp has been delayed.

Indeed, the FIR says it has already made a “final proposal” to the players.

Having convened in Villabassa in northern Italy over the weekend, training was set to commence under head coach Jacques Brunel this morning. However, the Italian players called a “rally” last night, according to the FIR, where they stated their unwillingness to train or wear any FIR kit until an economic agreement is reached.

Captain Sergio Parisse was not present in Villabassa for last night’s meeting, having helped Stade Français to Top 14 final success against Clermont on Saturday evening in Paris.

Italy are scheduled to play World Cup warm-up games against Scotland at home and away in August, while they also face Wales in Cardiff early in September.

Sergio Parisse Parisse's arrival at the training camp is sure to be decisive. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Brunel’s men are part of Pool D at the World Cup alongside Ireland, France, Romania and Canada. Italy take on Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in London on 4 October.

“I am disappointed by the attitude taken by the athletes,” said president Alfredo Gavazzi in the FIR statement, “not so much for the situation, but because this decision denotes unwillingness to invest in their own sporting ability.

The offer that was presented is consistent with the our current positioning [15th in the world] and with the agreements between the athletes and the Tier 1 unions closest to us in the rankings.

“I remain confident that, as always, common sense will prevail and, together we can turn the situation around ahead of important fixtures in the future.”

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Murray Kinsella

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