Being an Italian rugby fan must be difficult. After all, Italy have finished bottom of the Six Nations table 15 times since joining the competition 2000, and it’s now five years on the spin that Italy have been landed with the Wooden Spoon.
Wins are few and far between for the Italians in international rugby. The recent Autumn Nations Cup offered a chance for Italy to potentially earn a victory, but their match against Fiji was cancelled, and while it gave the Italians an automatic 28-0 win, it felt a bit empty given the fact that no rugby had actually been played to earn it.
The subsequent fifth/sixth place play-off saw Italy lose to Wales, and now the Six Nations is just around the corner, with Italy unsurprisingly the favourites for the Wooden Spoon once again according to the 2021 Six Nations odds from Betfair.
What can Italy’s realistic expectations be ahead of the upcoming tournament? Well, first of all, you’d imagine that simply winning a match will be top of the priority list, something they haven’t done since they beat Scotland in 2015 to avoid the Wooden Spoon that year. The question is, where is that win going to come from?
The Azzurri begin their campaign against France in Rome, and while the French finished second in last year’s Six Nations, they are a side Italy have experience of beating, having got the better of Les Bleus in 2011 and 2013. But given France’s newfound confidence under Fabien Galthié, it’s difficult to see Italy getting a result.
From there they head to Twickenham to face England, a match which will almost certainly end in a heavy defeat given the Italians record in London. Then they host Ireland, where head coach Franco Smith will be hoping to summon the spirit of 2013, when Italy beat Ireland 22-15 to help them on their way to a lofty final position of fourth.
Their final two matches against Wales and Scotland could present the best chance for Italy to pick up some points. Wales have been having a hard time of it lately, and although they beat Italy to finish fifth in the Autumn Nations Cup, Wayne Pivac’s side have struggled for any kind of consistency in recent times. Should Italy take the game to them, perhaps there’s an outside chance of recording a first win against the Welsh since 2007.
Scotland are the team Italy have beaten in the Six Nations more than any other, with seven wins in total, and often the race to avoid the Wooden Spoon has been battled out between the two teams. Having said that, it’s six years since Italy got the better of the Scots, which incidentally was when they last avoided finishing in sixth place. Scotland have looked a decent outfit recently, so it’s hard to see Italy’s luck changing this year.
It’s no surprise that Italy are heavily expected to finish in last place. Such is the low expectations that surround the Italian rugby team, it’s a shock anytime they do actually win a match and avoid the Wooden Spoon. If they can at least record a victory in the 2021 tournament, it will be seen as a success for Smith and his side, but the chances of that happening seem to get slimmer with every passing winless year.
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