Azzurri benefit from soccer scandals
Italian rugby is indirectly being helped by the scandals surrounding football in the country, according to veteran national prop Andrea Lo Cicero.
Italian football has been damaged by a number of match-fixing scandals in recent years while it often gives itself a bad name on the pitch as well with diving, simulation and petulent back-chat prevalent.
And while it remains by far the most popular sport in the country, Racing Metro front-row forward Lo Cicero says that by shooting itself in the foot Italian soccer is having a positive effect on rugby.
Lo Cicero acknowledges that while it maybe cannot reach the kind of widespread popularity it does in a country like Wales, there is certainly room for growth.
"Wales is a small country with many rugby players whereas ours is a big country with many footballers," he said.
"It's one of the problems, there are more youngsters who watch football first and then rugby, whereas in other countries it's vice-versa.
"We have to live with this but now, luckily due to the ridiculous antics in football, parents are pushing their children more towards rugby because it's educational, it teaches then to live and give their all in the right moment," he explained.
Last weekend Italy were brushed aside 24-3 by Six Nations leaders Wales, who can complete the Grand Slam if they beat France in Cardiff this weekend.
It means the Azzurri, as so often before, head into this weekend's clash with Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico here with both teams playing to avoid the Wooden Spoon and five out of five defeats.
It's the 13th season that Italy are competing in the Six Nations and yet once again it comes down to this one match to avoid finishing bottom of the pile.
To some it may seem like they haven't made any progress since winning their first ever Six Nations match, at home to Scotland back in 2000, but Lo Cicero doesn't agree.
"I'm thinking of the future of the national team and this team is growing with some difficulties, of course, because just as we're developing, so too are the others," he said.
"There's a bit of frustration because we want to get the results that we need. We're improving a lot but this isn't enough, we need to start getting the results," he said.
He believes the country needs to give young players more opportunities to play.
"Talent arrives when you're looking for it, we're working on it but youngsters also need to play to express themselves and get rid of the fear that they feel during games.
"This will come with time and with the experience of the pitch, with playing and finding yourself in front of your opponents. They (the youngsters) have got a lot of enthusiasm, they want to work, their technique is good and that's a great starting point.
"When we started out we weren't so well prepared but now the academies really help the youngsters and there's also greater professionalism which helps them become physically ready.
"We need to take many blows on the pitch to get the waters moving in Italy and to bring in professionalism," said the big prop.
Looking forward to the Scotland match, Lo Cicero said it would be wrong to start thinking about winning and losing focus on the details of the job at hand.
"It would be a mistake to talk about victory, the games are decided during the 80 minutes, never before or after. We need to go onto the pitch and do everything the coaching staff has proposed and we've worked on.
"It's not for us to talk about winning, it's not fair on Scotland and it's not fair on us, we're no-one," he said.