For years Italy struggled to find a long-term replacement for Diego Dominguez. Each Six Nations championship came and went, and every year it seemed a different player would don the number ten jersey, none of which were able to claim a permanent hold on the shirt. Cursed it seemed at the time, with an Italian flyhalf having less time in the job than a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Well, like Italy’s resurgence in tier one rugby, the standoff spot has seen a new birth. In fact, the position has become the focal point of much of Italy’s talent with two top-class performers fighting it out over the jersey. Paolo Garbisi has had a firm grip on the shirt since his introduction from junior grade international rugby in 2020 – with Italy’s growth running in perfect correlation with his own.
With Garbisi having been on the receiving end of a spate of injuries in recent times it has allowed for the more experienced Harlequins player, Tommaso Allan, to re-enter the frame. Acting mainly as cover for England’s Marcus Smith at Harlequins, Allen has become accustomed to making the most of his chances when called upon. In fact, he has also shown this in international colours so much so that Italian coach Kieran Crowley is finding it very hard to keep him out of the team.
This weekend sees an interesting challenge for Italy, for the first time in possibly their combined history, the Azzurri head into the match as favourites against the Welsh. With all the turmoil that has engulfed Wales during this tournament, it stands to reason that the Italians are currently the more in-tune group.
Last year’s heroics by Ange Capuozzo will not be repeated this year after an injury has ruled him out. Tommaso Allen has however proven his worth and will take the fullback spot, in a clear indication that he is becoming an important cog in the Italian wheel with the world cup on the horizon.
Garbisi, the younger of the two, will be expected to retain his position while fit, however Allen with his different playmaking style, ability to cover multiple positions and huge international experience could see him become one of Italy’s most important assets.
15. Tommaso Allan; 14. Edoardo Padovani, 13. Juan Ignacio Brex, 12. Tommaso Menoncello, 11. Pierre Bruno; 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Stephen Varney; 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Giacomo Nicotera, 3. Simone Ferrari; 4. Niccolo Cannone, 5. Federico Ruzza; 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Michele Lamaro (c), 8. Lorenzo Cannone
Replacements: 16. Luca Bigi, 17. Federico Zani, 18. Marco Riccioni, 19. Edoardo Iachizzi, 20. Giovanni Pettinelli, 21. Manuel Zuliani, 22. Alessandro Fusco, 23. Luca Morisi.