Ireland’s CJ Stander on the charge against Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan says Italy have diminished the quality of the Six Nations and hinted that South Africa should join the event instead.
Since joining the northern hemisphere event in 2000, the Italians have won a meagre 12 of 108 games, with their last win coming in 2015.
The Azzurri are guaranteed a place in the competition for at least four more years. However, there have been calls for a promotion/relegation series of games with Romania and Georgia or possibly South Africa or Argentina to be included.
“They are the whipping boys of the tournament and the fact remains that every team sees Italy as an opportunity to rack up points,” O’Sullivan told RTE’s Against The Head.
“Italy are your banker if you need points on the last day. That’s not good for the tournament. When the tournament started everyone was saying we should give them time, but it’s 21 years and it’s probably getting worse now, not better.”
The suggestion of adding Romania and Georgia does not appeal to O’Sullivan, who said he’d like to see the Springboks or Los Pumas participate.
“Let’s call a spade a spade, you are looking for a South Africa or an Argentina to make it a different tournament, to push it on. We’re not going anywhere with Italy, Romania or Georgia. Italy have been developing for 20 years and it just hasn’t happened.”
Former Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has been Italy’s mentor since November 2019.
After losing 48-10 to Ireland in Rome at the weekend, a result which marked Italy’s 30th consecutive defeat in the Six Nations, Smith predicted they would “be competitive with everyone in seven to eight years”.
But O’Sullivan, who coached Ireland between 2001 and 2008, disagrees with Smith’s notion.
“I don’t know where that came from, there is no evidence, it’s just the same year in, year out. It’s not a good look for a tournament to have an annual whipping boy; it’s not a good idea in terms of developing the tournament.”