By Francesco Costantino 

ITALIAN RUGBY has sold its soul to the devil. In the name of high-level rugby, it has forgotten the club game.

The development of players is now all in the hands of the federation (FIR) and the clubs’ power has been progressively erased, with the exception of Benetton Rugby, a black sheep not really loved by the establishment.

Two wins in the Six Nations is a big thing, but new FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi should be worried about the terrible 17-12 defeat by Georgia in March in the U18 Championship. Who will be there after Parisse and Zanni? The reality is that there are no players in some roles; try to pick two Italian sides of the same strength. It’s impossible.

The reign of Giancarlo Dondi, the ex-president, rewarded ineptitude. He surrounded himself with ‘yes-men’ more interested in money than Italian rugby, so the new government has been left with no able executives.

In Italy there aren’t international rugby coaches or world-class executives, the standard of refereeing is bleak and national academies may not solve the problems.

We’ve lost the values of rugby by chasing professionalism. The academy in Tirrenia is a hole where the boys don’t become men but only machines, a place where they train all the muscles except one: the brain.

One of the federation’s worst ideas is progetta statura – that only big guys can play rugby. The academy focuses on building a physique – but what about other skills?

The RaboDirect Pro12 is perfect for producing players for national sides, but in the most important club championship in Italy, the Eccellenza, the monetary reward for finishing in the top four means clubs field old players with much more experience rather than talented youngsters.

The focus needs to be put back on the clubs, helping them to produce good players and good people. We’ve produced a generation of failed men, people without a scholastic education who hope to be a pro player – but in one of the world’s worst economic crises. Now we need to use rugby to educate players about real life.

In Italian rugby at the moment, there are too many people interested only in money and not the growth of the game. Will Gavazzi give Italian rugby its soul back?

This was published in the June 2013 edition of Rugby World. Click here to see what’s in the current issue.