Italian rugby clearly benefitting from URC exposure

Italian rugby clearly benefitting from URC exposure

Benetton currently sit second on the United Rugby Championship table.

Springbok legend Jean de Villiers believes it’s no coincidence that the rise in Benetton Rugby’s performances in this year’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship should lead to Italy almost shocking France in the Guinness Six Nations this past weekend.

“That wasn’t just a bit of luck,” De Villiers said of Italy’s thrilling 13-13 draw with France last Sunday.

We’ve seen in the United Rugby Championship that Benetton’s rise and being in the top four for a couple of months now is reaping the rewards.

“To be able to be successful and to sustain that success you need a proper pipeline of players coming through. Benetton’s performance in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship has established that they are certainly no pushover and can compete with the best.

“You can see the effect now of them being competitive week-in and week-out as the Italian national team pushed a French team that a couple of months ago were favourites to win the Rugby World Cup.”
Reflecting on last weekend’s Six Nations action, De Villiers says Duhan van der Merwe’s outstanding performance in Scotland’s victory over England is another powerful message of how South African-born players have in the professional era – and even more so now with the dawn of the United Rugby Championship – embraced the greater opportunities in the game.

“I think we’ve seen in the professional era where players have made decisions to have the best career possible,” De Villiers added.

“The opportunity is there for South Africans to play in an international competition and gain so much more exposure that could even open up potential Test opportunities for them in other countries, but which also remains a positive for a Springbok team that is open to international selection as well such as was the case with Jean Kleyn, who added great value at the Rugby World Cup.

“More opportunities for our players is a great positive for the game.”

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