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Dublin: 9°C Monday 26 October 2020

Change must come at the top in Italian rugby, says Castrogiovanni

As for the prospects of Georgia replacing Italy in the Six Nations, well, talk is cheap.

Castro facing Ireland in 2015.
Castro facing Ireland in 2015.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE NUMBERS WITH which Italy remembers 2020 by won’t be the zeroes recorded in two Six Nations defeats in the spring.

Nor whatever scoreline comes from their meetings with Ireland and England over the next two Saturdays. It will be the 36,000 Covid-19 deaths and the unquantifiable trauma of being the first European nation hit by the pandemic.

Still, sport can sometimes be a fine distraction if it can just keep its head clear of the foam while the second wave swells up around the rest of society.

Case numbers and calls for lockdowns are rising in both Ireland and Italy ahead of their rescheduled Six Nations meeting at the Aviva on 24 October, but if rugby’s Test schedule goes as planned over the six weeks ahead there is an intriguing sub-plot that has long needed fleshing out. The case of whether Georgia or Italy ought to the sixth nation.

The eastern European side will get their best chance to prove their worth in top tier company next month as they face England, Ireland and Wales before a possible play-off against Italy. However, as Martin Castrogiovanni points out, if results and performances were the only deciding factor on bringing Georgia into the Six Nations, Tbilisi may well have already been a tournament destination.

“People talk because it’s free. If you put a tax on bullshit they’ll not say so much bullshit anymore,” says the former tighthead when asked if the constant speculation around Italy’s involvement annoys him.

“I don’t think they want Georgia there. Ireland, England… nobody wants to go to Georgia. They like to come to Italy, because it’s Rome.”

20 years on from earning their place in the Six Nations, talk of Italian improvement on the field feels like damning with faint praise.

The trouble is that other teams improve too. The Azzurri are without a win in the Championship since 2015 and are set to chew on the tournament’s wooden spoon for the 14th time in 20 years.

Castro’ hesitates slightly when asked to give his opinion of Conor O’Shea’s time at the helm. Instead, he laments the structure in place behind the side currently overseen by Franco Smith.

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“O’Shea came here with a good mentality, but when you come to Italy we make people change mentality sometimes,” said the 38-year-old, speaking to promote the Guinness x BuJo rugby at home kit.

“It’s hard sometimes when you come with an idea, try to change and the people you need to help you change, don’t help.

“The Italian team need to choose a coach and have him for eight years. Every four years you change a coach, this coach comes in and gives you tactics, the other one is French and wants you to play a different way.

“With Italy, maybe we have good forwards and everyone knows that… we need to find someone to put us in a good (gameplan) and do it for eight years.

“That’s the only way, to give you the time to change the rugby, not change every four years.”

martin-castrogiovanni Martin Castrogiovanni has teamed up with Guinness to reveal the limited-edition Guinness x BuJo rugby at home kit. Source: Martin Castrogiovanni/INPHO

Asked whether Italian rugby has grown stagnant, Castrogiovanni says:

“If you ask me about results? no. If you ask me about the people who are there, that have  been doing the job for about 20 years, in the same position…it’s a new election next year and we’ll see what happens.

“The players do all they can do. They go to the game, but what do they have? Sometimes other people need to work for the players.

“If you want to change something, I think you have to change.”

The Guinness x BuJo rugby at home kit is inspired by a fusion of everything that is great about Guinness, BuJo and rugby. For the ultimate at home match day experience people can purchase kits at for delivery nationwide while stocks last.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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