2000 Six Nations
Italy grow in stature
April 4, 2000
Italy's Diego Dominguez rallies his team-mates © Getty Images
Italy can be well satisfied with their first season in the Six Nations championship. The win against Scotland was a wonderful bonus but, more importantly, they have improved as the season has progressed and been more competitive with every game.
For all the home based players the step up to international level is huge. Italian club rugby is played at a leisurely pace and, not surprisingly, their fitness levels had to improve dramatically.
There were times against France that show they are already feeling comfortable playing at speed - Coach Brad Johnstone has made a major impact already.
The whole championship has been riddled with mistakes from referees and touch judges and this time it was England's Ed Morrison who got it wrong. He made the decision to allow Thomas Castignede's try when the little full-back dived for Emile Ntamack's kick. It always looks dubious and sure enough TV replays on the giant screen just moments later confirmed that he had only reached the ball on the dead ball line and only succeeded in pushing it forwards not downwards. The sooner rugby embraces the new technology that is making monkeys out of referees the better.
But for that score Italy would have taken the lead they deserved into the half-time break.
The captain, Alessandro Tromcon is growing in authority and confidence all the time and is formed a very effective partnership with Diego Dominguez. Sadly he will now have to forge a new one because the fly-half appears determined to retire at international level. The bad news is that there is no obvious successor at fly-half but the good news is that some of the other youngsters have really found their feet at the top level.
In the backs, Nicola Mazzucato and Alessandro Stoica are marvellous prospects and the find of the season has to be twenty-year-old flanker Mauro Bergamasco. Johnstone has had barely four months with his new charges and if they keep improving at the present rate they will be nobodies push over next season.
French Coach Bernarde Laporte will just be glad the championship is over. At last he has a win at the Stade de France, but this was another error ridden performance and he cannot be happy having conceded four tries. He knows he has a very talented first team and next season he will be hoping they will all be fit and raring to go instead of constantly under doctors orders,
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor is a former Wales and British & Irish Lions international and currently the managing director of London Welsh