Italy are the perennial underdogs of the Championship. What are their chances this year? Which games should they be targetting?
They come into this years 6 Nations off the back of a pretty terrible 2017, losing all but one game, with that lone victory coming against Fiji, at home in November. Sadly for the Italians, all the other games (save another against Fiji away in June) weren’t even close, with the Italians losing all of them by at least 13 points.
In fairness to the Azurri, all their games were played against teams considerably higher than them in the World Rankings, Fiji being the closest team, currently ranked 10th to the Italians 14th.
Italy are probably ‘artificially’ low in the rankings due to competing in the 6 Nations and playing most of their games against opposition consistently higher in the rankings (similar to Argentina in the Rugby Championship), but one can’t help but feel they should organise more games against similarly ranked opposition. Even if they are artificially low, the staunchest Italian fan would doubtless agree there would be value in racking up wins against lower opposition and building some confidence.
So what are their chances for this year?
Sadly, not great. Italy are predicted to pick up the wooden spoon again, with the current projections giving them just a 16% chance of finishing above fifth or above. With three away games, Italy’s uphill challenge becomes significantly more difficult, and escaping from this years Championship with a single victory would be considered a success. So where might that victory come from?
Italy’s best chance of victory is actually predicted to be France, despite the fact it is played away in Paris – a sign perhaps of how far they French have fallen in recent times. Even the more traditional wooden spoon match against Scotland is predicted to be a fairly one sided affair, with the Scots currently given a 90% chance of victory in Rome.
Sadly for the Italians, another wooden spoon will only heighten the calls to open up a relegation/promotion system into the 6 Nations with Georgia currently the most likely nation to replace them should this happen. Perhaps the only ray of sunshine for the Italians is that the Georgians would be predicted to perform even worse, with a current simulation of a 6 Nations including Georgia giving them a 99% chance of finishing last (to Italy’s 84%).
This is, of course, ignoring the opportunity of opening rugby up to more nations and extending the reach, but food for thought nevertheless. We have our fingers crossed for the Italians that they can record a win somewhere, but we aren’t too hopeful.