There's been plenty of fallout from the Ireland v Italy game in the Six Nations on Sunday.
Most of the talk has predominantly centered around the rugby laws that left Italy with 13 men after replacement hooker Hame Faiva was sent off.
World Rugby's 'uncontested scrums' rule means that if a team loses two specialist front rows and have no direct replacement, they have to forfeit an extra player.
However former Ireland international Gordon D'Arcy has questioned the Italians' legitimacy after their 57-6 loss at the Aviva Stadium, in his column for the Irish Times.
"The fiasco temporarily distracted from the more debilitating problem concerning Italian rugby as the team demonstrated character and resilience on the day to mitigate what should have been an even bigger hiding," D'Arcy said.
"Sunday was a familiar tale of woe in terms of the outcome, one that has been commonplace for over six years now and counting. Italy last won a match in the Six Nations in the final round of games in the 2015 tournament."
It has been seven years since the Italians enjoyed a Six Nations victory. That last came against Scotland in 2015 in a Round 3 fixture when they won 22-19 with a last-minute try.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 27, 2022
Italy have come close to a win since, but they've failed to compete with the in-form teams in the tournament consistently for years and years, enduring their 35th consecutive loss in the competition.
"The fact that supporters love the opportunity to enjoy an extended break in Rome while taking in a Test match is not sufficient reason to ringfence Italy’s participation in the Six Nations," D'Arcy continued.
"There is a legitimate and growing concern about what, if any, value they are adding to the tournament."
Italy's Six Nations Struggle
D'Arcy points to the issues that exist within Italian rugby's underage levels, and their decision to abolish their under 19 academies last summer.
"There seems to be a cyclical structural issue within Italian rugby," D'Arcy said. "Getting rid of their under-19 academy last summer that had served Italian rugby so well at underage level over the past five years."
"It is a fair question to ask now, is rugby in Italy sustainable or even viable? I would suggest that rugby would effectively collapse if Italy was removed from the Six Nations."
It's been long remarked that rugby is far from a national sport in Italy, and D'Arcy doesn't think that those in charge are inspiring much talent to come through from underneath.
"You have to seriously consider if there is any coherent strategic plan for the short, medium, and long-term development of Italian rugby because it certainly doesn’t look like there is any cogency."
Former IRFU Head of Technical Direction Stephen Aboud is currently working with the FIR as Head of Technical Direction for Player and Coach Development.
His contract runs up in the summer, and D'Arcy doesn't think he's received adequate backing from the higher-ups in Italian rugby.
"(He) created and implemented an elite development player and coaching pathway that heralded unprecedented success for Italian rugby at underage level."
But as I have already alluded to, some of those structures are already being picked apart .. while Italy is a stakeholder in the Six Nations their presence should not be guaranteed if they cannot be competitive. Italian rugby has been artificially propped up by Six Nations revenues, it lacks solid foundations in participation and structure terms and is being left behind by its peers both domestically and internationally.