As 1999 became 2000 the Five Nations became six and with it came one of the most famous matches in the Championship’s history.
In their first ever match in the Championship, Italy hosted Scotland in Rome and were determined to make a big splash – this is the story of the game.
Setting the scene
Italy were welcomed into the Championship in 2000 on the back of good performances in the 90s Rugby World Cups and wins over Scotland, Ireland and France.
The excitement and anticipation ahead of their first match was huge, but the Azzurri were not handed an easy baptism as they lined up to face 1999 champions Scotland.
Following the 1999 Rugby World Cup Brad Johnstone departed as head coach of Fiji and took over the reins in Italy, with Johnstone installing a determination in the Azzurri squad that Scotland would soon discover.
Fly-half Diego Dominguez was an undoubted star of the Italy side and he was ably-assisted by Alessandro Troncon in the half-backs.
The scrum-half would go on to earn 100 caps for his country whilst another man to reach his century in Azzurri appearances – Mauro Bergamasco – lined up in the openside shirt.
Scotland, meanwhile, were led by new captain John Leslie, who came into the February match without competitive action since the previous October owing to an ankle injury.
Scotland also had considerable talents in their team, with Bryan Redpath, Gregor Townsend and Kenny Logan at scrum-half, fly-half and wing, respectively.
How the action unfolded
Scotland skipper Leslie’s ankle only lasted 14 minutes in an early blow to his sides chances, with Logan missing two early penalty opportunities to put Scotland ahead.
Townsend then knocked over a 35-metre drop-goal but Stade Francais’ Dominguez then claimed two penalties back in response.
Gordon Bulloch went over for an easy score but from that point onwards Italy took over, with two more penalties before half-time punishing Scotland infringements.
The metronomic Dominguez followed that up with two brilliant drop-goals and Logan missed another penalty, leading to Townsend taking over kicking duties and claiming one back for the Scots.
Dominguez notched another penalty and drop-goal, with substitute Giampiero de Carli’s try coming after sustained forward pressure to mean that Martin Leslie’s late response was a mere consolation.
Rome’s Stadio Flaminio erupted into joyous celebration upon the final whistle, celebrating as Italy announced themselves onto the Championship stage in fine style.
Unfortunately for the Azzurri they were unable to replicate their heroics and finished bottom of the table that year, just below Scotland who were level on two points.
Italy’s next win in the Championship would come in 2003 when they beat Wales with John Kirwan appointed as the new head coach.
Where are they now?
Scotland’s fly-half that day – Gregor Townsend – is obviously still writing his own Championship story as head coach of the national side.
Redpath is also involved in coaching and after leaving Yorkshire Carnegie last year the former scrum-half will take charge of Scotland U20s for the World Championships this summer.
Andy Nicol is a regular pundit for the Championship whilst on the Italian side Dominguez was recently seen as Toulon head coach in 2016, with Troncon currently coaching at Pro14 club Zebre. Scotland 34 Italy 20 Venue: Stadio Flaminio Date: 5 February 2000 Referee: Jonathan Kaplan Attendance: 24,000