Italian Federation mounts Magners League bid
December 20, 2008
Italy coach Nick Mallett could soon be choosing from players in the Magners League © Getty Images
Italy coach Nick Mallett has had his wishes granted with the news that Italian clubs will be put forward by the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) for inclusion in the Magners League.
Mallett called for the move to take place after seeing his Italy side slip to three defeats in this season's autumn internationals, blaming the lack of competition in the Italian Super 10 for the dearth of quality available to him.
The FIR has decided to put forward plans for either four Italian clubs or two amalgamated sides, similar to the Romanian select XV Bucuresti Oaks that competes in the European Challenge Cup, to be included in the competition that currently features teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
"The federation board has decided unanimously to add the Italian rugby movement to the Magners League," said an FIR statement. "We will quickly adopt proposals to guarantee the participation of four clubs in the League or two select XVs."
Italian clubs have enjoyed a mixed season in Europe so far, with Treviso and Calvisano being routed in the Heineken Cup but Padova and Viadana showing the potential to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup.
"We've been forced by the autumn international results to make a move," said FIR President Giancarlo Dondi. "Joining the Celtic League and its professional environment should help Italian rugby close the gap on the world's big nations.
"It's a huge thing for us, something that will change our elite rugby, but it was now or nothing and we realise we couldn't waste any more time".
Officials from the current Magners League unions discussed the possibility of Italian involvement at a board meeting at the start of December, but chose to hold off any prospective planning until a formal bid was made by the Italian Federation. That official application is expected to be made before the start of the Six Nations.
It is hoped that Italian representation can be in place by next season with two clubs or representative sides laying the foundation for two more in time for the 2010-11 season.
It has also been reported that Celtic League officials will demand 8milion euro guarantees from each new side that may be a stumbling block for some existing sides.