Zebre announced as new Italian Franchise in RaboDirect Pro12

Animals are invading the RaboDirect Pro12 following the announcement by the Italian Rugby Federation that Aironi will be replaced next season by Zebre, which means Zebras. Below is the full press announcement:

Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) announced today “Zebre” (Zebras) as the new team to replace Aironi Rugby in the Rabodirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup in the 2012/13 season. “Zebre” was originally founded in 1973 as invitational club for North-Western Italy. FIR announced as well Zebre will be based and will play in Parma, at the “XXV Aprile” Stadium, which is currently being refurbished and expanded.

Technical staff

Director of rugby: Roberto Manghi
Technical director: Christian Gajan
Coaches: Vincenzo Troiani, Alessandro Troncon
Team Manager: Fabio Ongaro
Fitness coach: Massimo Zaghini

FIR appointed 53-years-old Roberto Manghi as Director of Rugby. Manghi, coming from Rugby
Reggio in the 2011/2012 Eccellenza championship, was general manager with Gran Parma and
Rugby Parma, reaching with both clubs the Eccellenza semifinals.

Christian Gajan was indicated by Italy Head Coach Jacques Brunel and appointed as technical
director: 53-years-old frenchman has a strong knowledge of the italian rugby having coached
Benetton Treviso from 1998 to 2000 and VeneziaMestre in 2008/09 season. Gajan also coached
Stade Toulousain and Castres Olympique, winning the European Shield in 2003 with Castres.

Gajan will be assisted by Vincenzo Troiani and Alessandro Troncon as coaches. Troiani reached
the Eccellenza semifinals as head coach in 2005/2006 season winning the Italian Cup in the same
year. He then coached Italy U18 and Italy U20 and was part of the technical staff at the U20 and
U18 National Academies. Troncon, all-time most capped italian player with 101 appearances, retired
in 2007 from rugby and was then appointed as Italy backs coach, position he held until the end of
the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.

Fabio Ongaro, 81 times capped as hooker for Italy, announced today his retirement from rugby and
was appointed Zebre’s team manager.

Massimo Zaghini, now attending Junior World Championship 2012 in South Africa with the Italian
U20 team, will be the fitness and conditioning coach after covering the same position with the U20
National Academy this year and taking part in the 2011 Italy Rugby World Cup preparation as Alex
Marco’s assistant.

11 thoughts on “Zebre announced as new Italian Franchise in RaboDirect Pro12

  1. And this lot get automatic entry to the Heineken Cup next season. Anybody care to suggest there isn’t a problem with the HC team selection now???

    1. I think it’s a fair point Matt H but I would say that Italy has a limited number of ‘start new club’ cards they can play before they lose their second qualifying spot. It’s allowed only to expand rugby union in Italy.

  2. @ Matt H –
    Quit yer complaining, by the quarter final stages it’s irrelevant!

    The cream of the five nations rises to the top anyway so let these guys have the chance to showcase their team, generate some revenue and hopefully expand home interest.

    If there was a Geogian or Russian team, I’d say include them as well!

    By the way, would the Aviva premiership being willing to host the St Petersburg Hammer and Sickles?

    1. Disagree entirely – the Heineken Cup is an elite tournament for the best teams in Europe. These guys qualify at the expense of a number of teams who I guarantee will be better (London Irish, Stade Francais etc). What’s the point of introducing another whipping-boy who will just make one of the pools easier?

      The Zebras should start out in the Amlin Challenge Cup and if they’re good enough, they’ll get in to the Heineken Cup. But I would be willing to place a large sum of money on them placing stone dead last in both the Rabo and H Cup.

      I don’t understand your point about the Aviva Premiership – it’s a league for English teams only, no?

      1. I think the HC should be a straight up fight between the top 4 teams of the Pro 12, Top 14 and Premiership. Going by that, the 2011/2012
        HC would have featured the following teams based on top 4 league finishes in the 2010/2011 season:

        Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Ospreys, Toulouse, Racing Métro, Castres, Clermont, Leicester, Saracens, Northampton, Gloucester.

        You could debate Scarlets being added as an extra Pro 12 team from that league containing the previous HC champions.

        Seed them and mix them into 3 groups (~roughly):

        Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
        Leinster Toulouse Leicester Tigers
        Racing Métro Saracens Munster
        Northampton Ulster Castres
        Clermont Ospreys Gloucester

        Then W1 V RU2, RU1 V W3, RU3 V W2

        Then the winners of those 3 play a final and special tri-club series with both home and away games (same structure as the now defunct tri-nations for the southern hemisphere teams)

        It would be brutally competitive but fascinating from beginning to end.

        & use the current HC system for the Amlin, for remaining teams.

  3. I see Matt’s point and if I’m brutally honest (even as a Welshman), the ability of teams would probably dictate a Heineken Cup of 10 French, 10 English, 3 Irish and 1 Welsh. But then it ceases to be a European tournament. That has been rugby’s problem for so long-the self-interest and greed of a few nations has stopped it growing past the traditional top eight. People have different agendas- personally I’d rather see rugby grow as a sport than see it confined to the narrow little corridor of Europe it Is played in. I say Italy and Zebras deserve a chance- and who knows Matt, maybe in a few years time they will grow and shock one of the established big names.

  4. we need to help expand the game i think, let the italians in!

    and besides look at edinburgh!!!

    semis and 2nd bottom of the league….

  5. If you think that HC entries should be on “merit” alone, then take a look at the results of the 2011-12 Heineken Cup. They would suggest that the Premiership does not deserve the same number of entries as the Pro12 or the Top14……….

    However, I don’t agree with this merit argument. If you want the HC to be a truly European tournament, then you have to allow space for Scottish and Italian teams. It adds colour and variety to the tournament. And personally speaking, as a rugby fan I welcome the opportunity to travel to HC and Pro12 games in France and Italy.

    If you applied the merit argument to the Champions League, you could have a tournament consisting almost entirely of Premiership, La Liga and Serie A teams, with the odd interloper like Bayern or Benfica!

Comments are closed.