Diego Dominguez – Dazzling but Deadly

Italy 10/4/1999Diego Dominguez©INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Jonny Wilkinson won Grand Slams and a Rugby World Cup to become England’s favourite son.

Jonny Wilkinson won Grand Slams and a Rugby World Cup to become England’s favourite son.

Dan Carter won it all as an All Black and is the top point scorer in the history of rugby.

But if you wanted one player from any era to kick a goal for your life – that man was probably Diego Dominguez.

The Italian fly-half turns 53 today and it feels an opportune time to examine his impact on the Azzurri.

Born in Argentina, but a legend in the No.10 shirt for Italy, Dominguez was the pivotal member of the Italy side as they made an immediate impact on entering the Championship at the start of the new millennium.

Dominguez played for his native Pumas twice in 1989 but found himself down the pecking order thereafter.

After much soul-searching and deliberation, the diminutive No.10 with the cherubic features then declared for Italy, the land of his grandmother.

Argentina’s loss was undoubtedly the Azzurri’s gain as Dominguez cemented himself as the greatest fly-half in the country’s history – bar none.

His debut for his adopted nation came in March 1991 against France and he inspired an Italy side that claimed many scalps at the dawn of professionalism in the 1990s.

In total he appeared in three World Cups for his country and by the turn of the millennium was ready to hang up his boots.

But Italy demanded more from their star stand-off and he was soon convinced to delay his departure and guide the Azzurri into the Six Nations era.

What unfolded on that opening weekend in 2000 is still the stuff of legend.

Italy hosted Scotland in Rome and proved they deserved to be in the new Championship in fine style, with a 34-20 win.

But the scoreline doesn’t tell half the story for Dominguez who contributed 29 of those points himself including three drop goals.

The Scots were powerless to prevent him and while his attacking gifts with ball in hand must not be overlooked he is undoubtedly best remembered for his goal-kicking.

Dominguez retired eventually in 2003, not before he had upset Wales for the first time in that year’s Championship as well.

But he hung up his boots and still stands as one of only five players to have notched 1,000 points in international rugby.

The others are Carter, Wilkinson, Neil Jenkins and Ronan O’Gara and make no mistake about it, Dominguez deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.

After all, he retired with 74 caps for Italy and two for the Pumas, won the Top 14 with Stade Francais and came within a whisker of a Heineken Cup crown in 2001.

He stood only 5ft 7in tall, but in terms of impact, he towers over his rivals as the greatest fly-half the Azzurri have ever had.