The Art of Losing, Italrugby 6 Nations

Accustomed to living off chases and boarding, we have succumbed to the fear of winning.

Five defeats from five games for Italrugby immediately tip the scales to the left, the one with a negative sign. In a system that doesn’t reward participation or engagement in a Decoubertian way, that fact is—firmly—the only thing that really matters.

Paradoxically, the manner in which these defeats came about leaves a particularly bitter aftertaste. Unfortunately accustomed over the past two decades to staying in the game for a handful of minutes just after kick-off, the Six Nations 2023 made us believe every single game that we could actually win, to be able to do the deal, but then to see our guys regularly miss the crucial moment. This is certainly the number of a young side (26.4 years averaging the starting XV against Scotland) that will only peak in a couple of seasons in that freshness-awareness ratio that usually drives a formation to assert itself , instead of failing , on the final game action.

However, this remains an aspect that must be examined with the utmost attention by the Azzurri’s technical managers, especially considering the sporting psychodrama that unfolded on the penultimate matchday. one and only that it had to be won at home against a run-down team from Wales. Accustomed to living off chases and boardings, branded with the label of perpetual misfit and sure loser, Italrugby couldn’t deal with the “fear of winning”. that touches every favorite formation at the start.

Against the Welsh – perhaps less adept at playing aerial rugby but more aware of the unchanging principles of the game: possession, promotion, pressure – he was wrong everything that could be wrong, and even when the match seemed to have changed its inertia, the opportunity to knock it over completely was thrown to the wind. It had also happened against Georgia in the summer, where the greater hunger of the opponents had plunged a group into a crisis that would find it difficult to assert themselves unless they made the desperate gamble and overturned the prediction.

A year ago we were amazed at the state of the art of the new blue course

Therefore, if the final results and the way they were achieved give us a negative impression, the positive aspect that we can note, on the contrary, is the way the Azzurri have managed to do so in all five games up to stay in the game until the end. This is relevant for two reasons.

Reason number one: If greater clarity and a winning mentality (perhaps) is part of the experience of this national team, then it will be possible to think realistically about winning every matchday, as announced the night before. What is evident is that if from 2014 to 2021 the gap between Italy and the other 5 had gradually widened, with the Italian movement in involution and other realities instead in constant growth, today the trend is reversed, with Wales, England and Scotland are all within our reach and only France and Ireland with a still superior but no longer unattainable general quality.

From that point of view, the results of the U20 national team are encouraging, having been among the most competitive selections at continental level for four years, beating the Welsh and Scottish by at least the other three.

Reason number two: It is not so much (not only) the lack of victories that led to talk of an Italian exclusion from the Six Nations until last season, but the previous inability to do so stay in the game until the end. The oldest tournament in the world is, at its core, an entertainment platform built on television rights and advertising, so it must package an engaging product that will nurture and expand its viewer base with each new edition.

Knowing that by the 35th minute of the first half Italy will already be 30 points behind with no hope of regaining the lead pushes the average Welsh, Scots, English but also Italian “user” to embrace it Don’t plug in the game or turn off the TV before the break. The ability to stay hold the result until the 80th it simply brings more interest and thus more money into the coffers of the tournament organizers (and the speculative fund CVC Capital Partners involved).

Also from this point of view the game expressed by the Azzurri helps. Offensively, Italy play much better rugby than Wales and England: ruthless like Scottish rugby but less Anglo-Saxon and more happily unpredictable, tending to overdo it (for better or for worse) like all Italian. A style perfectly embodied by the clean face, brilliance and boldness Ange CapuozzoAdorable street brat awarded World Rugby Breakthrough of the Year (Revelation of the Year) for the 2022 season. Honestly a champion without whose absence for the last two days of the tournament we would probably be commenting on another Six Nations now.

Blue rugby’s rising star

The statistics

Finally, a few statistics to break through the often deceptive veil of subjective impressions and give some objective elements to ponder.

There has been talk of a good attack, but the fact remains that it cannot be further improved by systematically working on it. If we look at the meters run, Italy is at the level of the best attacks of the tournament: 3911.6 meters, just behind Scotland (3984.4) and further away from Ireland (4285.7). The number of balls carried forward to generate those meters was 649 (Ireland first with 696, Scotland third with 620). An offensive attitude that is confirmed by the game system: 1587 balls played in hand, with Italy still taking first place ahead of Ireland (1563) and Scotland (1431); Yards covered with shift kicks was instead 3024, fewer than any other formation, with England ranking first (5286.4) and France second (5129.3).

Further confirmation of the philosophical decision to play this way are the passes made: Italy once again first at 974, followed by the usual Ireland (897) and Scotland (851). However, the tries scored give us the data of a profound offensive sterility, especially in the face of such an effort: Italy is last with 8 goals (France first with 21, Ireland second with 20, Scotland third with 17).

A similar situation for organized scrums, where the Vulgate wants us to be solid again, often dominant, finally reconciled with an Italian oval tradition that, until very recently, required our teams to be carefully composed of “eight men scrambling, an opening with a kick, two centers in a tackle” (quoted by Pasquale Presutti, but it could have been Nereo Rocco if Paròn had started rugby). Here is the relevant data on the free kicks awarded in an ordered scrum that Main symptom of the possible suffering of their front line: Italy first with 14 penalties, with England the most virtuous and solid (3), France second (5), Ireland third (6).

Project yourself into the future by looking into the past

To understand the current evolution of Italian rugby and envision the future, we need to look back and analyze the last decade (plentiful) of our local Oval history.

The idea of ​​starting two franchises it turned out that they played in what was then the Celtic League (today Pro 14). myopic, at least according to the results. One of the two selections failed (Aironi) and was replaced by another (Zebre), stable at the bottom of the table and with management and economic problems that have been partially cushioned for the time being. The other is not a franchise but the richest and most successful club in Italian rugby (Benetton Treviso), which provided the most players in the national team before the Celtic League and still does today.

The most relevant effect of this breakthrough was rather the domestic league quality slump (top 10), with relative decline in interest from enthusiasts and sponsors around him. Ideas are urgently needed on what to do with this container in order to broaden the base of both practice and the public (both go hand in hand) and to make the activity of the clubs involved sustainable (the top 10 is a championship , which costs a lot and brings no return). The recent appointment of a Tournament Director (Marco Aloi) has been positive, but after this first step, others are needed.

The eight years of Gavazzi presidency were then a scourge with a vertical decline in results, competitiveness and image. We’re recovering today, but there’s still a lot to do and no one has a magic wand. Here, too, patience, which is considered to be scarce in our latitudes, will be required to insist on the technical line that still exists today and to improve it where necessary. To say: When will a federal “school project”, structurally and broadly organized in the territories, broaden the base of practitioners?

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