Rabodirect Pro12 given a bad case of the blues?

By Eilidh Walker

After a weekend which saw both of Scotland’s professional rugby teams face their Italian Counterparts in the Rabodirect Pro12 it seems an appropriate time to assess the impact the Italian sides have had on the league since there addition at the start of last season.

Italian sides Benetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby were added to the Magners Celtic League (since renamed the Rabodirect Pro12) at the start of the 2010-2011 season. At the end of their inaugural season the Italian sides found themselves at the wrong end of the table come play-off time, Aironi ended the season bottom of the table in 12th position and Benetton Treviso only managed to place in 10th thanks to a difficult season for Glasgow who finished in 11th. These statistics mirror that of the Italian National team in the six nations so will the Italian sides in the Rabodirect Pro12 face the same fate as the national side and end up being seen as dummy sides against whom leading sides like Leinster and Munster present second string squads.

Although this weekend both Italian sides were victorious against Edinburgh and Glasgow these results are a rarity, the first victory of the season for both teams, the first time Aironi have won since March of last season. Having watched Benetton Treviso beat Glasgow it was clear to see part of the problem is that these sides are very much still amateur. Treviso struggled at the breakdown repeatedly finding themselves offside, and not always intentionally, it could also be said that the Italians were lucky with some of the decisions made by the match officials Treviso once again benefitting from Glasgow mistakes.  Although still amateur in the way they play the game they can be applauded for their determination to enter a league with ten well established Celtic teams and also their ambition to play in a league where they will be tested by some of the best club sides in Europe. It could be said that they have everything to gain and some sides already in the league have a lot to lose, in terms of extra fixtures in an already long season and also high travelling costs. However it is commendable that their ambition has been recognised and they have been given a platform on which to build, after all it isn’t often two places become available in such a well-established and professional league.

The Italian sides haven’t had the greatest start to their Rabodirect Pro12 careers but they have entered a steep learning curve which they can only benefit from. Although the other teams in the league may not have faced the level of opponent that they would like to better their own games they will reap the rewards of adding new blood to the league. Playing against such strong opposition is giving the Italians the opportunity to grow not only at club level but also for the national team to have two professional clubs providing them with home grown talent is massively important.

Only time will tell how Benetton Treviso and Aironi will fare long term in the Rabodirect Pro12 but something tells me that they will continue to learn from all they have achieved so far and use it to better themselves in the future and will in turn help improve the national side and also rugby at a grass roots level in Italy.


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