Over the last 20 years or so it has become increasingly popular, aided by government moves to promote the sport.
In particular, major tax breaks were provided for companies wishing to invest in rugby clubs and teams. Sponsorship money poured in and the growth of the game was assured – accompanied by an influx of foreign stars to Italian clubs.
At national level, the Five Nations tournament (England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) was expanded in 2000 to become the Six Nations when Italy was admitted.
In 2007, Italy won their first away game ever when they beat Scotland, and they capitalised on this by beating Wales the following week in Rome; this success should help to raise rugby’s profile in Italy, particularly at a time when many Italians have become disillusioned with football.
Most large and medium-size Italian towns boast a rugby club – a total of around 430 teams competing in the country’s many leagues and knockout competitions that take place between September and April.
For information about local clubs, contact the Italian Rugby Federation, Federazione Italiana Rugby, Viale Tiziano,19, 00196 Rome (06-3200 036, www.fedrugby.it).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.