In a shocking and bizarre revelation, legendary Argentinian-born Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni has stated in an interview that his only relation to Italy was through his great-grandfather, thus meaning he was ineligible during his 119 cap career with the Azzurri.
It also means that Word Rugby will be forced to look into the matter and decide whether retrospective action should be taken, and what this punishment should be.
Given Italy have not won any major trophies, they could retract Six Nations results, fine them, or, at the much harsher end of the scale, ban or disqualify them a major tournament.
So, Castrogiovanni comfirms in this interview that his nearest Italian relative was his great-grandfather. Thus making him ineligible to have played for Italy by birth.
— Cian Ó M 🏉 (@RugbyKino) August 2, 2022
What Should World Rugby Do?
Given the disqualification of Spain from the upcoming World Cup, it would seem unfair were World Rugby not to take any action, but the level of punishment is a tricky one to judge given the uniqueness of the situation.
Castrogiovanni would have eventually qualified through residency, but was first capped by Italy just a year after moving there to play for Calvisano.
In the interview with Spanish rugby website Rugby Champagne, the former prop gave a brief run down of his family roots, and his beginnings with the Italian rugby team.
Grandpa Castro was born in Argentina, his name was José María. The one who was Italian was my great-grandfather, Ángel, who was born in Sicily, in Franco Forte.
When I was in Calvisano, Italy, I was called to play my second year of U21 for Los Pumitas. It was amazing, Graco [Argentinian rugby coach] spoke to me. But in Italy they noticed and they invited me to go with them to the M21 and then join the senior team, we went with Sergio Parisse. He called me John Kirwan, who was the New Zealand coach. I finished the Tour with the U21 and joined the major.
Imagine my world fell apart. It was the hardest decision of my life. As always I tried to do things right. I called Graco, told him what was happening, and told him to give me a week to get back to him. I did the same with Kirwan.”
I talked to my old people, my friends…. Of course, with Graco. He was very important to me, he pushed for me to be called up, he made me play at 19 years old in U21 at a time when coming from Paraná was not the same as playing in Buenos Aires. I never got a chance to thank him in person. He did a lot for me. Obviously when I spoke on the phone he didn't like it very much, he did his job. He did not understand, like many people, that I played for Italy. But they are decisions. Then I called Kirwan and that was my story.
Irish fans will remember the eligibility controversy surrounding Tony Cascarino, when he revealed in his autobiography that he had been adopted, saying that, "I didn't qualify for Ireland. I was a fraud. A fake Irishman." The issue was subsequently cleared up by the FAI, and they ruled that he had in fact been eligible.