Gli Azzurri are always an unknown quantity and show so much promise, which sadly does not deliver as often as it should. They are capable of good solid play with some mercurial running as they have shown in various matches, but in the past, too often fades into disarray. However, there is a proud and robust seam of confidence emerging in the team – with focus, discipline and having the power to be effective for 80 minutes – this now the norm rather than the exception. Under Head Coach Kieran Crowley, the Italian team is beginning to make their mark. Beating Australia at the end of 2022, and France definitely felt the pressure of the Italians much improved attach in the recent Six Nations (France won just by 29 -24) – and let’s not forget that epic final try when they beat Wales last year. (Who can forget Josh Adams handing his Player of the Match medal to Ange Capuozzo!)

In Pool A alongside the powerhouses of New Zealand and France, Italy will be looking to move up a gear with each match and hoping for a shock result against either of the giants – or realistically a third place to qualify further. Starting against Namibia then Uruguay, two matches, which although a challenge, will hopefully settle them and grow confidence before facing New Zealand and finally the hosts France. With the second youngest squad in the tournament, with an average age of 27 years, this is an Italian team who have belief in how they have developed and grown in recent seasons – and know they are capable of upsetting some of the bigger names.

Captain: Michele Lamaro – one of the nicest players in World Rugby, respectful and a great team player. Superb at tackling.

Player to Watch:  Several contenders in this much in this young squad – Palo Garbisi is becoming a lynchpin on the pitch but for me it is the incredible Ange Capuozzo, thankfully back after injury, who will attract much attention for his speed, intelligent read of play – and hopefully tries!

For more information about Italian Rugby –

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What to Eat & Drink whilst watching the Azzurri

Food: Italy is still blessed with a great regional difference in its food and so there is quite simply nothing that can be defined as “Italian”.  So below is a suggestion of various match day friendly foods from various parts of Italy, that won’t distract too much from the play!

Antipasto platter – the simplest of all to create as it is assemblage not cooking! Any good deli should stock a range of quality products that can be simply arranged artistically but worth looking on line for some great produce as well:  green queen olives, a selection of cured meats – but make sure they are the real McCoy but checking they are DOP or IGP marked. Culatello is the queen of Parma ham and worth searching out – especially made by the lovely Spiegaroli family, But you also need some salami – maybe fennel salami, plus some coppa (cut from the neck), speck from the Alto Adige region and maybe even some lardo, 

A mixed antipasti would not be complete without some griddled artichokes and some pickled vegetables – giardniera – which are easy enough to make (see Jamie Oliver for a recipe) and maybe some baby onions pickled in balsamic vinegar.  

For something from the sea, white anchovies (not the tinned ones) would be a good addition. Then add a variety of crostini – which is all about the bread, so do get Pane Pugliese from (avail Waitrose). Once toasted, add either fresh chopped tomato & basil – chicken liver pate – pesto of whichever variety takes your fancy , topped with chopped mozzarella – fig & ham – the combinations are endless……..

To source some authentic Italian products, you could try the ever brilliant 

For a delicious cheese platter – do visit . Choose classics such as to Gorgonzola Dolce for the blue, regal Parmigiano Reggiano (with some chestnut honey to drizzle over it) Pecorino from sheep milk and of course some Taleggio. But they have an awesome selection of formaggi so try some lesser-known ones such as:

La Tur – an exquisite, triple cream cheese from Piemonte

Brunet Alta Langa – Soft goat’s cheese

Castelmagno – the King of Cheeses. Crumbly and unmistakable (any leftover makes great sauce for gnocchi)

Occelli al Barolo – Sweet grassy alpine cheese, which is coated in Nebbiolo grapes, from Barolo wine, aged in oak barrels. 

Pecorino Moliterno – Sardinian pecorino which is infused with black truffles whist aging. 

Smoked Burrata – Mozzarella stuffed with offcuts of mozzarella & cream and then naturally smoked over beech for a smoky taste.

Before you pop out to buy this bounty – then put the dough for Paul Hollywood’s  (  Green Olive breadsticks to prove – it’s a super easy recipe and guaranteed to impress  (I tend to use half the number of olives that are in his book).

Finally, there is one easy match day food that will be a crowd pleaser – Pizza!  But you don’t need me to tell you how to make it – be it ordered in from your local Pizzeria or making your own dough from scratch (amazingly easy and great fun – HFW has a great recipe online).

So why not try making something a little different, Sfincione – aka Sicilian Pizza. A focaccia like base, topped with thick tomato sauce with onions, topped with anchovy fillets, caciocavallo cheese and breadcrumbs – simple to make in a large baking tray and cut in squares – delicious! has a good recipe online, though I’d replace the basil with Oregano! 

Drink: The image of Italian beer is chilled, easy drinking lager to enjoy on a sunny terrace and whilst Peroni and Nastro Azzurro tick that box, there is a broader range of beers to look out for from Italy. Widely available is Morretti, from Udine in the North-East of Italy, both the original and the Rosso versions. There is an increase in the highly experimental Birra Artigianale from Italy – so do look out for ones such as Birradamare

Wine: Italian wine is the most diverse in the world, with every region of Italy producing wine – and often from truly local grape varieties that are not seen anywhere else. Having lived in Italy for 5 years and spent 26 years visiting her vineyards from North to South, I could wax lyrical for hours about the many wines to tempt you – but for now a few suggestions for your match day party:

Chardonnay, Nascetta, Sauvignon and Riesling – an unusual white blend but one that really works. Dragon Langhe Bianco Luigi Baudana. Made by the adorable Vajra family in Piemonte, this is one of my “always in the fridge” wines as it’s delightful drinkable. Flavours peel away of apples, pears and good balance of acidity with the Riesling coming through on the finish. £13.50 from

Forget dire jugs of Soave experienced in touristy trattorias – Soave is a glorious white wine when made by an outstanding producer – Pieropan. Their Soave Classico, is a celebration of the Garganega grape variety, which gives white floral aromas, crisp yet textured wine, with an underlying touch of almond. £19

Pinot Bianco is a grape variety flying under the radar for many wine lovers, but so worth seeking out especially as in this great one Pinot Bianco Tradition from stellar producer Terlano, in Alto Adige. Forget any word association you brain might play with the Pinot Grigio grape – nothing like it – instead think White Burgundy but with freshness, minerality and purity. Any of the whites from this world class producer are outstanding – for stockists contact –

In honour of the Italian captain Michel Lamaro, who was born in Rome, a red wine from Lazio. Made from Cesanese, a red variety only found really in this region, it is an enchanting, lighter style, ideal as a lunch wine! Raspberry notes, with bright acidity (great with the Sfincione above) from an aristocratic producer, Principi Pallavicini. Available £13.50 from

From the east of Florence, in the small Chianti Rufina region, try this Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva. Exquisite and elegant interpretation of the Sangiovese grape, with freshness and silky tannins – this is Chianti with style. £18 from

Piemonte is home to the very famous red wines of  Barolo & Barbaresco, usually with a price tag more than one would spend whilst watching rugby. But do look out for Langhe Nebbiolo – from same area and same grape variety, but from younger vineyards and can be a great value alternative whilst still great quality. Ethereal, notes of cherries, slightly spicy, white pepper, and star anise. For this quality of wine and an amazing great price/value ratio for Langhe Nebbiolo from Produttori del Barbaresco £25 from

Cocktail: Given that Treviso is one of the leading Italian Rugby teams, and they are based in the Veneto region – it would be appropriate on match day to serve their most famous local cocktail – Aperol Spritz   very simple to make and Aperol is widely available. Below is the recipe though I recommend adding in a large queen green olive on a stick, as gives a hit of briny salinity.

National Drink: Grappa! I know – so many options but I chose Grappa as it is made in every region of Italy.  And appreciate that it is not to everyone’s taste, usually based on a bad experience with some dire rocket fuel given as a freebie in some Italian restaurant at the end of a meal. But there are some really, rather good Grappa out there – so do give it a go by searching out leading producer Poli, whose range of grappa really reflect the flavour of the distillation.