Italy finally joined the Six Nations Championship in 2000 but their admission coincided with the departure of some of their best players. Nevertheless they won their opening game against the reigning champions Scotland 34-20.
Since then they have struggled to compete against the other nations and their participation was called into question, however they answered their critics by playing a more disciplined game. The 2001 and 2002 tournaments were particularly disappointing as they did not win a single game. Coach Brad Johnstone was sacked in 2002 after an alleged show of 'player power'.
John Kirwan was then appointed coach. They managed to get their second win in 2003, a 30-22 against Wales, and Italy avoided the wooden spoon for the first time.
They followed up by winning two games at the World Cup, another first, though the tournament was ultimately disappointing as the Welsh gained revenge with a 27-15 success that meant that Italy were the only Six Nations country not to advance to the knock-out stage. Their third win came against Scotland in 2004.
In the 2006 Six Nations Championship Italy performed well against every team they have played so far, leading against both England and France in the 1st half of the recent tests, but lost their first three games. They did, however, get a creditable 18-18 draw away to Wales, their first ever away point in the tournament, and were unlucky not to draw with Scotland in Rome in the final game, losing 10-13 courtesy of a late Scottish penalty. Italy will play the Rugby World Cup 2007 in Pool C, against New Zealand, Scotland, Romania and the team winning Repechage 1.
The Six Nations Championship, known before 2000 as the Five Nations Championship, is an annual international rugby union competition held between six European sides; England, France (joined 1910), Ireland, Italy (joined 2000), Scotland and Wales. The winner of the Six Nations is often seen as being the unofficial European Champions.
The Five Nations Championship, with its predecessor the Home Championship, was the premier international rugby union tournament in the Northern hemisphere. It has also in the past been known as 'The International Championship'. There is also a Women's Six Nations Championship which historically featured Spain instead of Italy, but from 2007 on will include Italy at Spain's expense.
France are the current defending champions having won the competition in 2006. No Grand Slam was won, but Ireland won the Triple Crown. Italy won their first point away from home in a draw with Wales.