RWC 2023 Spotlight: Italy

We begin our countdown to Rugby World Cup 2023 with Italy under the spotlight for their RWC story.

Italy had the honour of competing in the first-ever Rugby World Cup match at Eden Park on 22 May, 1987, losing 70-6 to New Zealand. They have appeared in all eight tournaments since but have yet to make it beyond the pool stage and will be eager to set the record straight at France 2023.

We take a look at Italy’s Rugby World Cup story.

RWC debut: 22 May, 1987 v New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland

RWC appearances: Played 31 – Won 13 Drawn 0 Lost 18 – Points for 627 Points against 977 – Win ratio 42 per cent

Most RWC appearances: Sergio Parisse, 15

Most RWC tries: Marcello Cuttitta, 5

Best finish: Pool stage

Qualification for RWC 2023: Third in Pool B at RWC 2019

Most memorable match: Italy received a standing ovation from a packed Welford Road in Leicester after a 10-point defeat to New Zealand in 1991. The All Blacks led 16-3 at half-time but a determined performance from Italy after the break saw them ‘win’ the second half 18-15 for a final scoreline of 31-21 to the defending champions.

Iconic moment: Scoring the first drop goal at a Rugby World Cup, Swiss-born centre Oscar Collodo entered the history books when he reduced New Zealand's lead by three points in the 39th minute of the opening match of the inaugural tournament in 1987. There have been 139 more drop goals in the tournament since. 

Low point: Victory over Scotland in their final pool match at RWC 2007 would have seen the Azzurri qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time. Captain Alessandro Troncon scored the only try of the game in Saint-Étienne but six penalties from the boot of Chris Paterson saw the Scots edge the decider 18-16. A real missed opportunity.

Iconic player: Sergio Parisse. The Azzurri’s greatest-ever player is one of just three players in history to have competed in five editions of the global showpiece. He joined fellow back-row and countryman Mauro Bergamasco and Samoa’s Brian Lima by achieving the feat at Japan 2019.

Record-breaker: Diego Dominguez set the record for most points scored in a Rugby World Cup match by an Italian (21) when he converted his own try and one other as well as kicking four penalties in a 31-25 win against Argentina at RWC 1995. Rima Wakarua matched the feat in 2003.

Did you know? Italy have been drawn in the same pool as New Zealand on no less than six occasions.

Quote: “I am proud of the things I have done in my career and am just glad to have been able to have been part of this experience, this World Cup. It was a very big effort tonight and we are all very unhappy, obviously, with the result, but we gave it everything and I could ask no more.” – Alessandro Troncon laments missing out on a fairytale ending following Italy’s 18-16 loss to Scotland at RWC 2007.

Read more: All eyes turn to Paris ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023 Draw >>