Former Italy captain Massimo Cuttitta, who played in the inaugural Six Nations back in 2000 before going on to be a scrum coach for Scotland, has passed away at the age of 54.
Cuttitta had recently been hospitalised in Rome with Covid-19 and died following complications from the virus.
A powerful prop in his playing days, Cuttitta made his Italy debut against Poland in 1990 and often played in the same team as his twin brother Marcello – a winger who is still the Azzurri’s all-time top try scorer with 25 in 54 Tests.
Massimo Cuttitta would win 69 caps over the next decade as the Azzurri built a reputation as giantkillers, predicated on the force of their pack.
He captained his country on 22 occasions and scored six tries, including one in a memorable 37-29 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 1997.
Regular wins over Ireland and other Five Nations sides helped earn Italy a place in the expanded Six Nations at the turn of the millennium and a then-33-year-old Cuttitta played a key role in the 2000 Championship.
He was in the starting line-up for one of the most famous games in Italian rugby history – their first-ever Six Nations match, where Scotland were downed 34-20 at the Stadio Flaminio to send Rome into raptures.
The veteran front-rower also played against Wales, Ireland and England during that Championship as the Azzurri announced themselves on the Six Nations stage, before retiring from international rugby later that year.
At club level, Cuttitta won four Italian Championships with Milan between 1991 and 1996, earning a move to England with Harlequins.
After retiring from playing, he served as scrum coach for a number of Italian clubs, as well as Edinburgh, and was appointed to the same role for Scotland in 2009 – becoming a popular member of the staff for the next six years.
In his final years, he acted as a scrum adviser for emerging nations such as Canada, Romania and Portugal before passing away at the age of 54 on Sunday April 11.
“All Italian rugby is intimately touched by the death of Massimo, one of the symbols of the national team who, thanks to an extraordinary generation of players, gained access to the Six Nations with a series of unforgettable performances in the 1990s,” said Marzio Innocenti, president of the Italian Rugby Federation.
“We didn’t have the chance to play together in the blue jersey of Italy but the love for our national colours had formed a strong, natural bond between us.
“Cuttitta was not only an incredible servant of Italian rugby and an excellent prop but also an appreciated ambassador for us abroad, coach of the forwards for Scotland and for other national teams that he helped bring to the stage of the Rugby World Cup.
“In this tragic moment, my thoughts, those of the Council and of all Italian rugby go to Marcello and to the whole Cuttitta family.”
Everyone at Six Nations Rugby would like to pass on their condolences to the family and friends of Massimo Cuttitta.