Italy’s first Six Nations victory over reigning Grand Slam champions France sparked huge celebrations in Rome on Saturday as Azzurri claimed their first win in this year’s tournament..
There were 13 Magners League based players from the two Italian franchise’s, Aironi and Benetton Treviso, were part of the match day 22, who have been hailed in their home land. National coach Nick Mallet emotionally described the victory as a “huge, huge achievement for Italian rugby.”
"I am really proud of my players and what they have done for Italian rugby supporters, who have been fantastic. We're working and improving all the time. I've stuck with the same group over the last three years," added Mallett.
"I've got a great captain in Sergio Parisse – he's been a lone figure over the last four years, but he's now playing with a team where he just has to do his part – and today we had 15, 22 players all playing their parts.
"Alessandro Zanni was outstanding, Andrea Masi, the full-back, had an excellent game – they were a really good rugby team today. We played against a good French team, who have reached two World Cup finals and have always thrashed Italy really, so it's a huge achievement."
Italy had pushed Ireland and then Wales extremely close in their previous two home matches in this year’s competition, but victory had been eluding them until Saturday.
Before the start of this year’s tournament Mallet spent a great deal of time explaining his long term vision for Italian rugby and described how having two sides in the Magners League will change the future for rugby in the country.
“The standard in the Magners League is so much higher than the Top 10 was in Italy and I think you have seen our two teams, in particular Treviso, start with a real bang and that is going to benefit Italian rugby,” said the South African coach.
“It will take a bit of time to come to terms with the tournament, but there is no doubt without exposure to Magners League rugby, Italian rugby had no chance of becoming competitive.
“The Italian rugby supporter has been stimulated by the Magners League and hopefully we will win over more players to play the game and more supporter to support the game.”