Here’s a stat for you - Italy have played 98 games in the Six Nations since they joined in 2000, and have won only 12 times. That’s a 12.24% win rate. Even those among us not blessed in the maths department know this stinks. And to add insult to injury, the Azzurri's last win came back in 2015, against Scotland. They are now on a losing run of 22 matches. Ouch!
Who’d be an Italian rugby fan? Why bother? What keeps them coming back, year after year, for more of the same hurt and humiliation? Well, The Sportsman has tracked down one such fan. Meet lifer Andrea Tronchin, he helps run the #rugbyunited social network and despite seeing his side collect more participation medals than a school sports day, he’s a super proud Italian supporter.
He tells us why….
“I guess it comes down to when a player laces up their boots and heads out onto the turf, they have this hunger to score a try for their country alongside their teammates.
“As a supporter, I may not have on a pair of boots but the drive is the same. The support is the 16th man for Italy and we feel the highs and the lows just as much as those on the pitch do.
“Of course I have experienced more lows than highs, but when we have managed a big win in the past, it has felt sweeter. We’ve had to fight through really tough times. And we continue to fight.
“I have travelled to many places to watch my beloved Italy play, it’s always amazing to meet, and enjoy rugby with, all the other European supporters.
“If I can’t get to the away games then I love to spend time around the dinner table or at a sports bar watching the action live on TV with my friends and family.
“My wife and I are officially registered with the F.I.R [Italian Rugby Federation] which means that we volunteer to help when Italy play at home, we love it that much
“I have Italy in my heart and I will always get behind the team. In recent years we have really struggled in the Six Nations, but there is room for optimism this year.
“We have a new coach. I know him personally from when he was at Benetton, which is my club, and a new Captain in Luca Bigi. Just look at his eyes, they’re full of pride.
“As supporters, we have a togetherness and unity which we use to help see the team through tough times.
“Despite so many defeats, Italian rugby has still brought me a lot of joy. My fondest memory is the first time I saw the All Blacks live, here against Italy. I remember seeing the emperor, Jonah Lomu. I was very young then, around 22 years old, and the Italian rugby movement wasn’t really alive like it is today, so it was a really unique experience for me.”
“We lost 70-6 that day, but it still stands out as my overwhelming favourite memory.
“And now, looking forward rather than back, I do have some optimism. It’s a new era. The old guard is moving out and we are trying to bring through the younger blood.
“We need to get some pride back and demonstrate more heart like we used to. The growth of rugby in Italy seems to have stalled somewhat and we really need to give it a boost.
“Let’s hope this Six Nations can make a real difference. Either way, I’ll still be there cheering my beloved Itay on. Nothing’s going to stop me doing that.”