|Location||Lombardy & Emilia-Romagna, Italy|
|Ground(s)||Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, Viadana (Capacity: 6,000)|
Rowland Phillips (Head Coach)
Andrea Moretti (Forwards)
Antonio Zanichelli (Backs)
Andrew Scotney (Backs)
Aironi Rugby (Italian pronunciation: [aiˈroni], "herons") were an Italian professional rugby union team competing in the RaboDirect Pro12 and the Heineken Cup, representing the Italian regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. They lost their status as a regional side at the end of the RaboDirect Pro12 season, as the Italian Rugby Federation revoked their licence for financial reasons. They were replaced by Zebre.
The formation of the team was made possible by the co-operation of eight existing rugby clubs Rugby Viadana 54%, Colorno 15%, Gran Parma Rugby 10%, Rugby Parma 10%, Noceto 5%, Reggio Emilia 2%, Modena 2% and Mantova 2%. Gran Parma, Rugby Viadana and Colorno have merged as a result of the formation of Aironi to form GranDucato Rugby Parma. Rugby Parma and Noceto have merged to form Crociati (Crusaders) Rugby Parma. These mergers were essential as the Super 10 (now National Championship of Excellence) division would have attracted far less sponsorship.
After several failed attempts there was doubt that a deal for Italian entry would be done in time for the 2010/2011 season, with the Scots delaying support for entry until changes were made to the Celtic League management structure. In February 2010 it was announced that the planned expansion of the Celtic League was to be put on hold. The reasons were the insistence by existing members that the Italian teams could be ejected after three years. Also the financial demands the league placed on the Italians could not be met. The existing teams said this was to cover the need to have larger squads to cover the extra fixtures and additional travel expenses. Agreement was reached in early March 2010 to allow Italian teams entry to the Celtic League in time for the 2010–11 season. The clubs will also be guaranteed places annually into the Heineken Cup which had previously been awarded to the two top teams in the National Championship of Excellence.
Italy have failed to make an impact in the Six Nations Championship tournament since joining 10 years ago. This has largely been blamed on the fact their best players do not have a competitive enough domestic tournament or are forced to play abroad. The fact that the Six Nations decider in 2009 between Wales and Ireland featured 42 Celtic League players out of 44 in their squads supported this notion. Most Italian players play in France's Top 14. In order to ensure the new teams deliver players for the national side the Federazione Italiana Rugby have put incentives in place for the new teams. The successful franchises will receive financial support from the FIR to recruit national team players currently playing abroad and fresh home-grown talent. Signing one of Italy's top players, most of whom play abroad, would net clubs €50,000, while other lesser players, mostly plying their trade in the Italian Excellenza series, would scoop €30,000 and €20,000 bonuses.
It was proposed initially Aironi would join along with a new team Praetorians Roma, but Benetton Rugby Treviso were nominated instead. Benetton Treviso and Duchi Nord-Ovest could not agree to form one club to represent the Veneto region and lost out in the first round of bidding despite the region being the traditional home of Italian rugby. However Pretorians Roma failed to satisfy the evaluators of their financial muscle and Benetton Treviso were nominated in their stead. This was boosted by Treviso's defeat of USA Perpignan in the Heineken Cup. Praetorians were to be based at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome, where Six Nations matches are currently staged.
2010/11 Debut Season
Aironi had a very difficult debut season. They initially struggled to compete in the Celtic League. Their coach, Franco Bernini, was sacked in November after a run of disappointing losses. They suffered a number of heavy defeats but often when they did lose (particularly at home) they did so by a single score. This is evidenced by the 8 Losing Bonus points received in 22 games. They finally registered their first win against French team Biarritz in December in the Heineken Cup. This was a massive shock as Biarritz had contested the previous year's final. Their first Celtic League win came at home against Connacht on 26 March, which they won 25-13. They finished bottom of the league in 12th.
Magners League Table 2010/11
|Team||Pld||W||D||L||PF||PA||PD||TF||TA||Try bonus||Losing bonus||Pts|
|7||Newport Gwent Dragons||22||10||1||11||444||462||−18||47||49||3||4||49|
|Correct as of 7 May 2011|
|Team||P||W||D||L||Tries for||Tries against||Try diff||Points for||Points against||Points diff||TB||LB||Pts|
2011/12 Final Season
Aironi again struggled in the Pro12 league and finished last. However they did record 4 victories, including a notable home win over defending champions Munster and eventual Heineken Cup Semi-finalists Edinburgh. In a very tough Heineken Cup group they failed to record any win, or even a losing bonus point. In March Aironi announced they were in financial difficulty. The FIR decided to withdraw their licence for the upcoming season, the death knell for Aironi. Viadana, the primary club behind Aironi applied to take the vacant place in the Pro12 but this was rejected by the FIR. In June 2012 it was announced that the new franchise would be known as Zebre, which is to be based in Parma and be built around Italian players.
|Club||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against||Points Difference||Tries For||Tries Against||Try Bonus||Losing Bonus||Points|
|4||Glasgow Warriors (SF)||22||13||4||5||445||321||+124||34||23||2||3||65|
|9||Newport Gwent Dragons||22||7||1||14||370||474||−104||27||41||1||5||36|
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
|Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places. Qualification for the Heineken Cup is based on each country's allocation, i.e. three highest-ranked Irish teams, three highest-ranked Welsh teams, both Italian teams and both Scottish teams. Because Leinster won the 2012 Heineken Cup Final, Ireland earned an extra Heineken Cup place, which will go to Connacht. Aironi were denied a licence for the 2012–13 season due to financial issues; the newly established Zebre side replaced Aironi in the Pro12 and Heineken Cup.
Updated 5 May 2012. Source: RaboDirect PRO12
Squad 2011/12 - Final Season
**World Cup Cover
Players Out 2012-2013
- Alberto de Marchi to Benetton Treviso
- Giulio Toniolatti to Benetton Treviso
- Carlo Del Fava to Newcastle
- Lorenzo Romano to Saracens
- Fabio Staibano to Wasps
- George Biagi to Bristol
- Joshua Furno to Narbonne
- Nick Williams to Ulster
- Frans Viljoen to Free State Cheetahs
- Matías Agüero to Zebre
- Andrea de Marchi to Zebre
- Salvatore Perugini to Zebre
- Tommaso D'Apice to Gloucester
- Antonio Denti to Zebre
- Marco Bortolami to Zebre
- Quintin Geldenhuys to Zebre
- Nicola Cattina to Zebre
- Filippo Ferrarini to Zebre
- Tito Tebaldi to Zebre
- Luciano Orquera to Zebre
- Gilberto Pavan to Zebre
- Matteo Pratichetti to Zebre
- Roberto Quartaroli to Zebre
- Giovanbattista Venditti to Zebre
- Alberto Benettin to Zebre
- Paolo Buso to Zebre
- Ruggero Trevisan to Zebre
- Naas Olivier to Pumas
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- [dead link]
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- Rugby Viadana site
- Aironi site
- Aironi Rugby official facebook page
- Aironi Rugby official photo album