Magners League snub will lead to player exodus

Italy’s Australian-born fullback Luke McLean admitted on Tuesday that Italian players could start heading to other European countries now that their clubs have been pulled out of the Celtic League.

Last week the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) claimed that Italian teams would not be taking part in next season’s Celtic League after talks stalled with League bosses over economic demands.

Italy were to have two entrants in the league, swelling its numbers to 12, alongside the four Irish, four Welsh and two teams from Scotland.

Aironi, an amalgamation of northern teams based in Viadana and Treviso, McLean’s team, were to have been the two franchises.

But now that they will be confined to another season at least of Italian Super 10 rugby, McLean believes Italy might lose more of its best players to foreign shores.

Already the likes of captain Sergio Parisse, Mauro and Mirco Bergamasco and Gonzalo Canale play in France while others such as Martin Castrogiovanni plys his trade in England.

“From everything I gather it seems as if for next season it’s off,” McLean told AFP.

“Obviously that’s not a good result for me personally or Italian rugby. It would have been great to play these teams in the Celtic League.

“It’s great at Treviso to play the European Cup. That part of the year when we’re playing in the European Cup is the most exciting.

“Obviously the Celtic League is a much higher level than the Super 10 and we were all looking forward to it.

“I have a contract with Treviso but if I had an offer from one of the other European countries it would be hard to say no.” And McLean suggested he wouldn’t be the only one as many younger emerging players in Italy could also be tempted to try their luck in tougher leagues.

“Obviously there’s that risk, a lot of boys were really excited to have this opportunity to play in the Celtic League and that’s gone now.

“At the beginning of this camp team manager Carlo Checchinato spoke to us and said obviously we don’t want to lose you all overseas so the Federation is going to come up with something to try to keep the national players in Italy and even bring some back to Italy.

“So we’ll see.” While McLean, a former Australian under-21 star who qualified to play for Italy through his maternal grandparents, was disappointed by last week’s news, he said he wasn’t surprised.

“When it did finally come out, we’d been hearing rumours for the last two months and it didn’t look good.

“It came down to a five percent chance that it would go ahead so it wasn’t a big shock.”

Looking ahead to this season’s Six Nations McLean said the competition minnows are determined not to suffer the same whitewash that befell them last season, despite talisman Parisse missing the competition due to a knee ligament injury.

“I definitely don’t want to go through another Six Nations of five straight losses, that’s the main objective,” added the 22-year-old who has played 14 times for Italy.

“Unfortunately (Parisse’s) not going to be with us but after losing five straight we definitely don’t want to do that again.

“This year we really want to go out in every match thinking that if we play to our maximum we can get a result.”

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