Italian Rugby History

FIRItalian rugby is barely 100 years old but is moving fast and in the right direction.  The “Azzurri” are becoming a force to be reckoned with, however unpredictable at times.

1911, when US Milanese played the French team Voiron, saw the first match played in the country (although, in fairness, rugby had been played by the British community in Genoa who in 1893 had formed the ‘Cricket and Football Club’). In 1927 the first steps to an organised rugby season were taken when a ‘Comitato di Propaganda’ was formed.  The official birthday of the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) is 28th September 1928. (

Fascism, with its culture of physicality and fitness, gave rugby a considerable impulse: it was considered a “manly” game, its growing popularity bringing teams to Milano, Roma, Torino, Bologna, Padova, Genova, Brescia, Treviso, Rovigo, Napoli and Catania in Sicily.

May 1929 saw the very first International match, played against Spain in Barcelona. When France was expelled from the 5 Nations they, together with Italy, Spain, Rumania, Germany and Czechoslovakia formed F.I.R.A. The War of 1939-45 stopped, but then restarted, rugby’s growth with British, Australian and New Zealand troops providing an alternative to French rugby.

The World Cup of 1987 provided a huge boost to the game, as did Italy’s membership of the 6 Nations. Giancarlo Dondi, for some years manager of the national team, became President of FIR. Dondi understands the importance of creating a breeding-ground for new players, and has targeted schools, promoting youth rugby with a massive project that is helping to increase the popularity of rugby in Italy and will certainly produce the right kind of players in future.

Forza Italia !


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