Celtic League - Roma welcome Celtic League decision

Reuters - Tue, 09 Mar 13:09:00 2010

Rugby Roma Olimpic have cautiously welcomed the decision to allow two Italian teams to enter the Celtic League next year despite missing out on inclusion and fearing the impact it might have on their side.

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Treviso and Aironi Rugby will join the Irish, Scottish and Welsh domestic league in an expanded 12-team competition after a four-year deal was reached on Monday after months of wrangling.

The Italian rugby federation hopes the move will make Italy's national side more competitive and Roma coach Carlo Pratichetti agrees with the aim even though some of his players will now leave for Treviso and Aironi.

"If it's a good thing for Italian rugby, it's a positive thing," he said.

"It's normal that the best players will go there. Sure we'll lose some players but I'm not worried."

Top flight Roma had initial approval to form one of the two Italian franchises but financial problems meant officials plumped for northerners Treviso to accompany Aironi, an amalgamation of northern teams.

The Italian rugby heartland is traditionally in the north despite Six Nations matches being played in Rome and the capital having the biggest pool of players.

"Rome was excluded and it hurt me a lot. Rome is a reference point but we can't do anything about it. They've gone to the north," added Pratichetti, who thinks some of Treviso or Aironi's Celtic League games will be played in Rome.

The loss of teams and top foreign and home-grown players from the Italian league, the Super 10, will be overcome if the remaining sides develop new talent, according to Pratichetti.

His nephew, Matteo Pratichetti, is on the fringes of an Italy side dominated by foreign-born players, which the Roma coach feels is a "problem" that might ease in time.

"The Italian championship will go on. I think next year the championship will have lots of young Italians. We'll have to see, there needs to be new rules like fewer foreign players for example," he said.

Italy won their first Six Nations match for two years when they beat Scotland last month and the Celtic League is keen to help them improve further even if the two new franchises provide extra competition for the existing teams.

"The inclusion of two Italian superteams will also add a new and important European dynamic to a competition which has become the powerbase of the professional game," Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis said.

Reuters

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