Italy has played in the Six Nations Championship with England, France, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales every year since 2000. However, Italy has not won a Six Nations match since a 22-19 away triumph over Scotland in Round 3 of the 2015 competition, losing every game thereafter, resulting in a 30-match losing streak. This is the longest such run since France lost all its matches in 1937.
They were ranked No. 1 at the start of the 2015 tournament but fell to fourth after losing their first three games. The loss also meant that they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
However, Italy did reach the final of the last World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where they lost to Australia. They have also reached the quarter-finals on two other occasions: 1998 and 2007.
The Azzurri are one of world rugby's most successful nations, having won the Five or Six Nations title ten times - more than any other country. Their record victory is 11 against England in 1929; their record defeat is 0 against France in 1913. They also hold the record for the largest comeback in international rugby history, coming from 14 points down to win 29-28 against England in 1983.
Their best season was 1999 when they finished second behind England at home and third overall. Since then they've never been able to break into the top three, with 2008 being their highest finish up to now.
Only England and Ireland have avoided coming bottom in the Six Nations competition since its inception in 2000. Italy has finished bottom in the Six Nations 15 times and has lost every match 11 times. The last time Italy won the championship was in 2001 when they beat Scotland 26-12 in the final game of the season.
An Italian loss during this period means elimination from the tournament with no chance of revival. The last time this happened was in 2008 when France secured their second title in three years by defeating Wales 32-10 in the final round of matches.
The first ever Six Nations Championship was played between February 4th, 2000 and March 3rd, 2000. Ireland won all five matches that year to take the title. Since then Italy has been relegated twice: in 2002 after losing to Scotland and again in 2008 after being defeated by France.
Overall, Italy has won only one match out of fifteen possible matches. That single win came in 2001 when they defeated Scotland 26-12 in the final game of the season. Italy's record is worse than any other non-English team.
Italy has competed in international rugby since 1929 and has long been regarded as one of the greatest European teams outside of the Five Nations Championship. They have also played in the Rugby World Cup twice, in 1958 and 1982.
Rugby is very popular in Italy. There are more than 500,000 registered players in Italy and about 100 clubs involved in professional play. The city of Rome is the home of rugby; the Italian national team plays its home games at the Stadio Flaminio. The country's most famous player is Andrea Masi, who spent three years playing for the London Irish club after coming out of retirement to join them in 1996. He returned to Italy later that year when he was named player-coach of his hometown club Treviso.
Rugby union was originally known as "rugby football" because it was played on a field divided into squares by posts stuck into the ground. These posts were called "rugs" and the game itself was called "ruggerie". In 1883, an English referee named Ephraim Barrow introduced the term "rugby" into common usage. He did so because he believed that it was a more accurate description of what the players were doing than "rugby football". Today, both terms are used interchangeably.
Italy's latest Six Nations victory came in 2015, when they defeated Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield. With that victory on the penultimate day, they escaped the Wooden Spoon. This was their first win over Scotland since 2007.
They have never beaten France in five attempts. The last time they lost to France was in 2001 during the World Cup year. That defeat ended their hopes of reaching the final game.
Ireland will now go into next year's tournament as the top country in Europe, having overtaken England who were second. Ireland had been ranked third but beat them at home for the first time ever to ensure their spot in Russia.
The history between these two countries goes back many years. They first met in 1883 when Italy played against England. Italy won that match 7-3 and it is still considered their first official international match.
Since then, both countries have competed together in several events including the Olympics, World Cups, and Six Nations tournaments. But despite their history, there has not been much success for either side. Ireland has never been below fourth place and Italy has never finished above eighth.
However, there has been some improvement recently. In 2015, Italy reached their highest ever position of sixth while Ireland rose from ninth to fifth.