L’ora più buia è quella prima dell’alba

italyrugbyThis has, historically, been a typical day in Gli Azzurri‘s dressing room – lounging around in their mutande pouting, wondering who forgot to bring l’Olio d’Oliva Extra Virgine, about as ready to rendere il massimo as a Viagra-less Silvio Berlusconi.

Yet Gli Azzurri wrapped up their Six Nations with two wins, their equal-best ever effort. And they pushed England hard at their hoodoo ground Twickers. The question is, why?

Look no further.

burtonIt can be no quirk of fate that his absence coincided with their improvement. Apart from forever taking Gli Azzurri from well behind the advantage line to somewhere out in the car park, he’s Australian.

Well, he’s a Queenslander. There’s a subtle difference. And there’s an even more subtle difference in that I marginally defame your average Queenslander because he’s actually from Cairns.

Cairns_location_map_in_QueenslandCairns is proof positive of my long-held theory – mentioned in this august company before – that the closer to the equator you live, the closer your head is to the sun, hence your brain is roasted at an early age. Certain southern American states only bear out my theory. For that matter, conversely, the closer you live to Antarctica, the more likely your brain to turn to gelato. Witness Tasmanians. Or, in the case of the Arctic, Scots.

In fact, Cairns-ites whose brains are yet to be entirely roasted have been known to jump to their deaths from great heights to escape the place. Signs are even erected to protect the roasted-brain locals from falling would-be escapees.

1261470530-Cairns-Australia-Oceania-CairnsBut, tempting as it is to stereotype North Queenslanders for 500 words – and you’d understand the temptation if you met one – there are other reasons for Gli Azzurri‘s relative improvement. For one thing, Sergio Parisse clearly had a look at himself in the proverbial clichéd mirror and cringed at what he saw.

sergio-parisse-calendarioWhy hang around like a knob – albeit barely hidden behind a footy – waiting to be sculpted when Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519? Pulling up his socks off-field – after actually putting some on – has resulted in more mature on-field performances. Sergio had often seemed to want to do it all on his own. These days he’s working just as hard but now also with his head down, grafting, backing up and supporting teammates.

Coach Jacques Brunel also brought a novel approach with him from Perpignan. The Azzurri backs were no longer to be passengers. Which amounted, in his view, to instilling the confidence to take chances. Hardly, historically, an Azzurri tactic. Opting to start the tournament with Luciano Orquera at 10 signalled his intent.

-Luciano-Orquera-007Orquera defines flaky. Always has. Give him time and space – as France did massively, and England and Ireland to a lesser extent – and he can create something out of nothing. Smother him as Scotland did and he can turn into a liability. It’s the risk you take. But, currently, he’s Gli Azzurri‘s only ready-made attacking 10 option. Thankfully, after Brunel lost his nerve and resorted to the Cairns-ite against Wales, with the predictable result, he rediscovered his nerve for England and the Cairns-ite was banished from the 23 hopefully forever.

Let Jacques Brunel imprint this message on his frontal lobe.

townsvilleThe bottom line is that the backs gave it a go more than they have in my memory. Often too lateral, predictable and lacking in guile – oh for a strike runner on an angle! – but, after some consistently outstanding Azzurri defence, with herculean back-row and forwards efforts securing possession, the backs did contrive to threaten. Not, historically, an Azzurri habit.

Brunel has said he’s happy with the progress over the tournament. He should be. But he’s not content. He wants more consistency and that, I suspect, has a lot to do with concentration from the moment the last notes of the anthem fade.

And, over the coming seasons, he knows he will need to replace some of his stars. Parisse and Zanni, the real quality in the team, are in their late 20s. Masi is 32. Castro 31. As is Orquera.

The signs are promising. Francesco Minto is developing nicely as a lock and can play backrow. Simone Favaro is another developing backrower. 22-year-old Tommaso Benvenuti is a fine 13 of the future.

Nick Mallett drove the establishment of Academy catchment areas all over Italy rather than focusing only in the north. Incumbents Edoardo Gori and Giovanbattista Venditti are Academy products, Gli Azzurri U-20 skipper Angelo Esposito, a winger and FB, has been with the national squad for experience and 19 year-old out-half Edoardo Padovani won’t be far behind him.

No one, of course, will ever replace Sergio Parisse.

Sergio_ParisseTst. Bastard can’t help himself.

This entry was posted in James' Unwanted Guests, Six Nations 2013 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

776 Responses to L’ora più buia è quella prima dell’alba

  1. crashtopuss says:


    I would be, except it’ll probably annoy Sag more when he’s back to see that I sat quietly and behaved for Dermott.

  2. Borderboy says:

    Orquero’s expression when he got dumped in the mud was priceless – “I’m a back – you can’t do that to me!”

  3. Droptheclaw says:

    What’s the difference between people saying expat and emigrant? Think I backed Zebre for this one. May not have been the right choice.

  4. Borderboy says:

    Well, that was tougher than it should have been – now for the main event….

    Hopefully a better game and better conditions

  5. Droptheclaw says:

    Oh, walk up, down and around Boxhill was good. Proper leg stretch.

  6. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Have to feel for the poor old Zebras. Didn’t see the game, but so many defeats by the narrowest margins. Still think their first win will be against the Ospreys next season…

  7. Droptheclaw says:

    They’ve had 5 matches this season where they have lost by 5 points or less. Tough going in the first season

  8. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    The wild optimist in me (who’s had a bit of a boost recently) is supporting Munster tonight as it still believes Ospreys and Scarlets can both make the playoffs despite the current top three all probably being more deserving. Would certainly set up Scarlets v Glasgow next week though it would also open up the possibility of neither Welsh side making it. In light of the proclivity for wildly swinging ups and downs in Welsh rugby and Wales in general I guess the latter scenario is more likely…

  9. Borderboy says:

    A bit worried about the big build-up for Glasgow on Alba here. We never do well with a big build-up – just let us sneak in under the radar, underdogs.

  10. Droptheclaw says:

    Not underdogs here, BB

  11. saltysam says:

    @ CMW … it do go against the grain to barrack for the Munster, even if it do marginally improve the chances of the Turks and Jacks. Can’t do it I’m afraid.

    With Dermott in charge for the weekend, this isn’t going to turn into some doggy bunga-bunga party is it?

    And me with my Pluto outfit left at home …

  12. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Munster will need more than my support on that evidence!

  13. Borderboy says:

    WHAT A START!!! McMAITLAND. Underdogs? Who said that!

    *This may come back to haunt me*

  14. Droptheclaw says:

    Mrs Claw watching re run of Masterchef. I am irritated by the word ‘forage’. It brings to mind truffle hogs.

  15. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    And what have you got against truffle hogs?

  16. Droptheclaw says:

    Nowt agin them. At least they forage. It’s the irritating twonks on this that go on about foraging for ingredients. So zeitgeist-y! Eejits.

  17. beadleclawuk says:

    I’ve got an outside chance of catching the second half of the GlosQuins game. Anyone got a feed for it?

  18. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Saltysam – don’t really feel the same way about Munster now they’re not their old selves any more and that our lot have a chance against them!

  19. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Rather like the word forage myself. Also gather as in hunting and. Kind of agree though as I would never use it about myself though for fear of sounding a bit of a prick.

  20. crashtopuss says:

    Missed the opening salvo from Glasgow and turned on the match just in time to see Laulala crash over.

    I take full credit for that try.

  21. crashtopuss says:

    Something is odd with the TG4 feed. There’s no score for a start and the commentators sound like they’re in a studio watching the match on the tv. All the noise of the match is completely drowned out by them. Sort it out, lads.

  22. Droptheclaw says:

    CMW – Agreed, I just resent the overuse of it in these types of programmes. Ray Mears forages. These people do not forage.

  23. crashtopuss says:

    And as I speak the have sorted it out and reverted to the match commentators, and put up a scoreboard and clock.

    I take full credit for that too.

  24. Borderboy says:

    Good try from Munster there. They look up for this – if they don’t win tonight, is that them out of the race for the play-offs?

  25. yesiamclutz says:

    Oooh, good spot by the lino there, I thought Sharples was going to be in,

  26. crashtopuss says:

    Ray Mears forages

    Going by his double chin I very much doubt Ray Mears has ever had to survive by foraging except for the camera.

  27. Droptheclaw says:

    Crash – moss has a very high fat content. Ahem.

  28. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Good game so far. Munster actually creating overlaps rather than just passing it out to the wing to get tackled. Glasgow at the moment are so much more positive than at the start of the season that it’s hard to believe they’re the same team.

  29. dermott says:

    Claw, I have foraging for ingredients on the list of things for you to do if you get here in July, including talking endlessly about foraging for ingredients in front of a film crew.

  30. yesiamclutz says:

    What the hell… Gloucester just ripped Quins apart, Cooke heading for the try line and he just dropped the ball…

  31. crashtopuss says:

    Christ, I haven’t seen that sort of ferocity from Munster in a while!

  32. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Dermott – do you have a truffle hog though?

  33. Droptheclaw says:

    Thanks dermott. Anything to follow he latest vagaries of food fashion. Did I mention I love foraging? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  34. crashtopuss says:

    Claw, I have foraging for ingredients on the list of things for you to do if you get here in July, including talking endlessly about foraging for ingredients in front of a film crew.

    I knew appearing on The West’s Awake would only be the start of Claw’s TV career. I just hope he knows to go out on a high and not hang around til he’s a z-lister and on celebrity Big Brother. I don’t think I could bare to see him like that.

  35. yesiamclutz says:

    Is everyone on here watching a different game? I’ve got Gloucester – Quinns on.

  36. dermott says:

    Clyde, my old truffle hog retired recently. I was planning on using Claw.

  37. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Lucky he’s got such enthusiasm for the task then.

  38. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    The Munster 7 has been an absolute handfull every time I’ve seen them this season – even when the rest have been shit.

  39. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Old Munster would have scored then I think it’s fair to say.

  40. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    At the first time of asking as opposed to the second!

  41. Wolfie says:

    Still don’t think Burns is good enough – just missed from in front after a lot of great work by the team………..
    My link is:

    Stopstream.tv – pretty good for a variety of sports

  42. crashtopuss says:

    Matawalu read that so well.



    I think everyone else is watching Munster vs Glasgow.

  43. yesiamclutz says:

    Just watched the first few minutes of the Glasgow – Munster game, will Maitland score an easier try?

  44. Droptheclaw says:

    My nose is a finely tuned instrument. This match is quite something.

  45. Wolfie says:

    (Sorry if this comes up twice)
    Still don’t think Burns is good enough – just missed from in front after lots of great team work – Glos trying to run Quins off their feet but leaving occasional gaps….
    My link is via Stopstream .tv (goog for all kinds of sports)

  46. Borderboy says:

    Yet another break away – we don’t need top play in their half – they are giving us the points

  47. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Would rather have everyone going mahoo-mahaa-mahoo-maha than have a (non-playing) player from one side occasionally speaking english to two sycophants. Have thought this before when watching Alba.

  48. sunbeamtim says:

    Clutz , i’m watching Quins -Glaws . great stuff . S15 my arse . Hope Cat is watching in his Sunny bolthole , Easter nailed on for the Lions .
    Claw- Just rode past Boxhill at about 6.15 . Didnt see you , is it some kind of interactive walking game on Xbox you are talking about ?

  49. crashtopuss says:

    DOC still determined to never let up on the handbags even at this stage of his career.

  50. yesiamclutz says:


    Agreed, I’m finding the random language switching to talk to a expert very odd. If you want to do the commentary in Gaelic, do it all in Gaelic, and have Gaelic speaking experts…

    It is Gaelic isn’t it?

  51. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    I would still back Munster if it came to a fight.

  52. ClydeMillerWynant says:

    Yup – gaelic pronounced gallic as it were.

    Doesn’t help that the ‘expert’ is invariably anything but – at least when it comes to having anything worth saying. What can you expect though when it’s their own team they’re watching?!

  53. Droptheclaw says:

    SBT – got there at 11 or so and walked from Westhumble to Boxhill to Juniper Wood, on to Givons Grove, down to Mickelham and then back to Westhumble. Very enjoyable indeed. I got the 1824 from Westhumble, so bizarrely, you may well have rode by me!

  54. tichtheid says:

    Pure thuggery from O’Gara, Should never play again

  55. yesiamclutz says:


    Was thinking in parts it looks like a S15 game, lots of space, missed tackles are stuff. Fun though.

    Pitch in the Glasgow – Munster game is diabolical.

  56. crashtopuss says:


    It was great wasn’t it? A high tackle that was so soft I doubt the guy he tackled even felt it. God love ROG, he tries and he tries but even Stringer could hit far, far harder than him.

  57. crashtopuss says:


    Thank Dog the rain has held off or else this would start to look less like rugby and more like Passchendale consider how ploughed the pitch has become.

  58. Borderboy says:

    Clyde – doesn’t help when the ‘expert’ is Peter Murchie – not the most exciting of commentators. Mind you, it isn’t his day job. I reckon Glasgow slightly lucky to be in front at half-time, but they did come into it as the half went on.

Comments are closed.