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Jeremy Guscott
"I hope Italy come in with a new attitude"
 real 28k

BBC Rugby Union correspondent Ian Robertson
"Italys's inclusion is well overdue"
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Italy: The Sixth Nation

italy Italy have experienced a massive drop in form


Times are tough in Italian rugby.

As the nation prepares for its first - and long-awaited - Six Nations campaign the side moves into the competition in a form slump of alarming proportions.

In the early and mid-1990s Italian performances got better and better.


Recent results
Oct 1999: Italy 3-101 New Zealand
Oct 1999: Italy 25-28 Tonga
Oct 1999: Italy 7-67 England
June 1999: Italy 0-101 South Africa
April 1999: Italy 30-39 Ireland
March 1999: Italy 21-60 Wales
March 1999: Italy 12-30 Scotland
In November 1998 Italy lost narrowly to England at Huddersfield.

The final scoreline of 23-15 flattered England and had a clear try from Alessandro Troncon not been disallowed, the visitors might have claimed an historic victory.

Their performance was no fluke. Italy have beaten Ireland three times (once in 1995 and twice in 1997), Scotland once (January 1998) and were close to defeating world champions Australia 20-23 in Brisbane in 1994.

With their rugby pedigree assured, Italy won entry into European rugby's elite club in February 1998.

But, just two years on, their game is in disarray after a successive series of humiliating defeats

Under-achievers

Nineteen-ninety-nine brought a string of poor results. A 21-60 hammering by Wales in Treviso, was followed by 100-0 point defeat to South Africa.


italy Wales notched up an impressive 21-60 win in Treviso last year
Coach Georges Coste subsequently resigned, but little changed as England notched up a 7-67 victory and New Zealand a dramatic 101-3 win in the World Cup.

A string of injuries to key players and the death of centre Ivan Francescato did little to aid Italy's World Cup preparations and they were rightly disappointed to exit the tournament without a win.

Italy's achievements in world rugby - from a base of just 500 clubs - should not be underestimated, however.

In the 1995 World Cup they arrived as credible contenders, beating Argentina, coming within seven points of beating England and would have qualified for the next stage had they not lost to Samoa.

Despite their recent slump, Italy have an uncanny ability to turn in a streetwise, defence-based, performance built on the solid base of skipper Massimo Giovanelli - an uncompromising second row - and the deadly boot of Diego Dominguez.

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