Italy’s Tito Tebaldi talks professionalism, Azzurri and his journey

On Saturday at BT Murrayfield (live on DMAX, kick-off 14.15) Italy will face Scotland in their opener to the 2019 edition of the Guinness Six Nations.

On Saturday at BT Murrayfield (live on DMAX, kick-off 14.15) Italy will face Scotland in their opener to the 2019 edition of the Guinness Six Nations.

Among the 23 selected by Conor O’Shea to travel to Edinburgh, Parma-born scrum-half Tito Tebaldi will play an integral role in the game.

Tebaldi is amongst the Azzurri players with the most amount of experience at the top end of the European game, and is in exceptional form for club side Benetton Treviso.

Before joining Treviso, the No.9 played in Italy with Aironi and Zebre, whilst also gainin valuable experience at Ospreys and Harlequins.

A member of the national side since 2009, if Tebaldi takes the field against Scotland he will celebrate his 30thcap.

Tito, you have experienced professional Italian rugby from 2010 up until today – what differences are there from your time at Aironi to now, at Benetton?

I take many positive things with me from my time at Aironi – a team definitely with competence and quality, fantastic training facilities, only the basic corporate organization was missing.

They came from a background competing in the National Championships and had to move to professional reality to be able to compete in the Celtic League, and, quite simply, we found ourselves unprepared.

Economic problems and the lack of good results didn’t help, there wasn’t time to build and work on a medium-long term project, as any experience of this kind should be.

Benetton started from a more solid base and boasted a much more structured and prepared organization.

In addition, the club was able to be patient in the first year of Kieran (Crowley, Benetton head coach), when it was decided to draw a line from the past and appoint new staff and new employees.

And how were your experiences at Ospreys and Harlequins between 2013 and 2016?

Ospreys I remember as a bittersweet experience. I had great energy and high expectations, and I played in a team full of champions, with lots of the players from the Welsh national side.

Unfortunately, there was lots of impatience for results that did not arrive, it generated a lot of tension and this eventually created a bad environment.

On the other hand, Harlequins was a whole different experience.

I was certainly not the first choice scrum-half and although this was a period in my career where I didn’t play that much rugby, I would make the choice to go back 1,000 times!

I understood and lived the sense of belonging at the club. I breathed what it meant to play in a historic club like Harlequins, seeing every day the strength and the spirit of all the players who had passed before me.

It was an incredible experience and one of which I am still very proud today.

Benetton now is a very complete organization. There are, of course, many things that can still be improved, but these are the details.

Saturday will mark the milestone of 30 appearances in the national team, how has the Azzurri changed in the 10 years you’ve been playing?

2009 was, objectively, another dimension! Since then rugby has changed deeply and with it also rugby in Italy.

From the point of view of the team I have experienced in first person the generational change – I started out as “young”, in a team full of leaders, who perhaps won more games than the current players have won, but in a way that would no longer exist these days.

It was an Italy primed for the kind of rugby that could be played at the time, with enormous physical strength, impeccable in the set-pieces, entrenched in having one of the strongest packs in the world at the time.

Today rugby has evolved and Italy, perhaps with a little delay, is trying to adapt as much as possible.

This is obviously easier for the franchises, where training is more often and regular. With Italy, the transition is a more complex thread, but the direction is the right one.