Where are they now? Italy’s Championship ground-breakers

Italy v Scotland SB2000
When reflecting on the biggest upsets in the history of Rugby’s Greatest Championship, few compare to the one that raised the curtain on the first-ever Six Nations.

When reflecting on the biggest upsets in the history of Rugby’s Greatest Championship, few compare to the one that raised the curtain on the first-ever Six Nations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Five Nations becoming Six – and as such, it also marks two decades since Italy spoiled the party in style on their Championship debut.

Facing reigning champions Scotland in the opening game at the turn of the millennium, the Azzurri rose to the occasion as they defeated the visitors 34-20 at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.

Inspired by Diego Dominguez, who kicked 29 points in a supreme exhibition of goal-kicking, Italy hit the ground running to begin the new Championship era with a famous victory.

But what are the 15 men who started that game up to now?

The Australian-born full-back played 12 times for the Azzurri after adopting Italian citizenship due to his ancestry, with four of those caps coming during the 2000 Championship.

At the end of his playing career, Pini took over as head coach of Gallopers Old Boys in Ashgrove from the 2007/08 season – a team playing in the Queensland Premiership in Australia.

One half of the Dallan brothers, Denis turned out for his country 42 times during his eight-year international career, scoring seven tries from his usual position on the wing.

An accomplished singer, he led the singing of the Italian national anthem for the Azzurri’s international against the All Blacks in 2009 at the San Siro Stadium.

In 2010, he appeared in reality TV show The Island of the Famous, an Italian version of Celebrity Survivor before retiring in 2014 and setting up a sport project with his national teammates.

The older of the two brothers, Manuel made 18 appearances for Italy at centre after making his debut against Argentina in 1997, with his last Test appearance for the national side coming in 2004.

He now lives in Merano where he is president of the rugby academy, running diversified sports projects and camps for boys and girls to help improve their basic motor development skills.

During his five-year international career, Martin played three times in the Championship, won 38 caps in total for Italy and scored nine tries following his debut against France in 1997.

He finished his career at Rocia Rugby in 2008/09 as a player-coach before starting a career as a full-time coach, starting off by taking charge of the Rocia Rugby Under-19 team. Martin became head coach of the Italy Sevens team in 2009 before taking over at Perugia in 2014, spending one season there before moving to I Medicei as assistant coach.

A Championship regular for Italy from 2000 to 2006, Romanian-born Stoica represented the Azzurri for a decade before hanging up his boots in 2007 with 71 appearances and 11 tries to his name.

He continued playing club rugby for another couple of years after his international retirement, winning the European Shield with Montpellier before finishing his career at SC Mazamet.

The match-winner against Scotland, Argentine-born Dominguez made 74 appearances for Italy in a career that spanned more than a decade and saw him rack up almost 1,000 points.

He finished his playing career in 2004 with Stade Francais before working as a consultant for Sky Sports Italia, commentating on tournaments when not spending time with his family.

Yet after taking a step back from rugby, Dominguez returned to the fore at the end of 2014 when it was announced he would be succeeding Bernard Laporte at Toulon for the 2016/17 season.

His spell in charge did not last long, though, parting ways with the club in 2016.

The eighth most-capped Italian international, scrum-half Troncon was the first player from his country to make 100 appearances in a career that spanned 13 years.

He retired after the 2007 Rugby World Cup and became assistant coach to Italy head coach Nick Mallett in 2008. Troncon is now part of the coaching staff at Guinness PRO14 side Zebre.

Having made his debut for Italy in 1990, Cuttitta made his final appearances for his country in the 2000 Championship as he brought an end to a 69-cap career which included six tries.

After his retirement, he started a coaching career at Amatori Rugby Milano before taking charge of Rugby Leonessa for two seasons.

He later moved to Edinburgh Rugby before enjoying a spell as the scrummaging coach for the Scotland national team.

Moscardi began his international career back in 1993 and played 44 times for his country before calling time in 2002, with his last match coming against England in the 2002 Championship.

Having captained his side on 19 occasions, he went on to become a commentator for Sky Sports before embarking on a successful corporate career in construction and real estate.

Celestino Paoletti, better known as ‘Tino’, made 15 appearances for Italy after running out for his Test debut in that historic victory against Scotland at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.

Following a playing career that included spells at Newcastle Falcons and La Rochelle, Paoletti finished his career at Lyons of Piacenza before remaining at the club as scrum coach.

Following in the footsteps of his father, who was an international lock for Italy in the 1970s, Checchinato made his debut in 1990 and went on to appear 83 times – scoring 21 tries.

His final international appearance came in the 2004 Championship against Ireland and after hanging up his boots at Benetton, he became the Italy national team manager.

The towering 6ft 6ins lock made 15 appearances for Italy after making his debut in 1996, finishing his international career in Rome against Wales in the 2001 Six Nations.

He retired from competitive action at the end of the 2007/08 season with Vinezia Mestre before taking on the team manager role. Since 2010, he has also worked as a sports commentator.

Considered one of the best Italian players of his generation, Giovanelli played 60 times for his country from 1989 to 2000 and was named captain for 37 of those appearances.

His cap in the famous win over Scotland proved to be his last as an eye injury forced him to retire from international rugby. He graduated in architecture in 2003 and remains in the industry today.

Another of the greats of Italian rugby, Bergamasco was a fixture of the Azzurri side from 1998 to 2015 and made 106 appearances before retiring after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

A year later Petrarca announced that Bergamasco had joined the technical staff, with the task of training of the coaches and taking responsibility for the application of the technical line.

A veteran of 22 Italy caps after making his debut in 1999 against Ireland, Wilhelmus ‘Wim’ Visser’s international career was short but productive with nine appearances in the Championship.

His last game for his country was in 2001 but he remains at the heart of rugby, with the No.8 on that special day against Scotland often found commentating for SuperSport.