National Championship of Excellence
|National Championship of Excellence|
| Current season or competition:
2011–12 National Championship of Excellence
|Number of teams||10|
The first Italian championship took place in 1929 with 6 of the 16 teams that existed in Italy. Originally named Serie A since its origin until 1959–60 season, its name was changed in Eccellenza from 1960–61 until 1964–65, then Serie A again until 1985–86. In 1986–87 it was named Serie A1 and the second tier took the name as Serie A2. Since the season 1987–88 the Championship has gone into a play-off phase after a regular season, and the title is assigned through a final (several venues have hosted the final match, notably Padua, Bologna and Rome). Eventually since a major restructuring occurred in the season 2001–02 the Championship has been named Super 10; Serie A1 and A2 became respectively 2nd and 3rd division and still are. The competition runs from September to May. After a home-and-away season, the top four teams play a knock-out competition to decide the championship and the bottom team is relegated. The season-ending playoffs have one feature distinguishing them from rugby playoffs in most other countries—the semifinals are two-legged, with the winner determined by aggregate score.
The top leading title holder are Amatori Milano who have won 18 Championships (the first one in 1929, the most recent in 1996); Benetton Treviso follows with 15 (first in 1956 as Rugby Treviso); Rovigo (first title in 1951) and Petrarca (rugby union club from Padua that won their first title in 1970) won 11 titles each.
Apart from the aforementioned teams no one has won more than 5 titles. The team that wins the Championship wears the Scudetto on their jerseys during the next season, The clubs that hold at least 10 titles win the right to wear a golden star on their jerseys. Until season 2008–09 the Super 10 was operated by the L.I.R.E. (Lega Italiana Rugby d'Eccellenza, Italian Elite Rugby union League), but since its folding (in 2009), the Italian Rugby union Federation has taken over its organisation.
The leading Super 10 teams qualify to play against teams from the other leading rugby union nations in Europe in the European Challenge Cup. Aironi and Benetton Treviso will from the 2010/2011 compete in the Magners League, and take both Italian places in the Heineken Cup. These two teams are intended to concentrate the best domestic talent and help develop the quality of Italian players and therefore improve the national team players.
Teams 2011/12 
The withdrawal of Viadana and Benetton Treviso from the league has been compounded by club mergers. Rugby Viadana, Gran Parma and Colorno have merged to form GranDucato Rugby. Overmach Parma and Noceto have merged to form Crociati, both new clubs to be based in Parma. These changes created 2 vacancies in the Super 10. Additionally Colorno and Noceto created vacancies in the second tier of Italian rugby as these 5 Parma area sides would only now field 2 professional senior teams between them. All 5 clubs are shareholders in Aironi. For the 11/12 season, Calvisano, Reggio and San Gregorio Catania were all promoted. They took the places of Gran Parma, Roma Olimpic and Venezia Mestre
2011–2012 Campionato Nazionale Eccellenza:
- Cavalieri Prato
- Rugby Lazio
- Petrarca Padova
- San Gregorio Catania Rugby
Parma – (Crociati and GranDucato Rugby) is the only city to have two teams. The majority of the other teams are either from Veneto or Lombardy in the North of Italy. Treviso, Viadana and Calvisano have dominated the championship in recent years but none now play in the top division.
Over time Italian rugby union has evolved; the clubs are better equipped, better organised and have begun to train their players better. There is more sponsorship money and an influx of foreign players (some of whom have gone on to represent Italy after qualifying under the 3 year rule). In 2005 the FIR decided to introduce a rule requiring teams to field at least 12 Italians out of their 22 man squad. This was an effort to counter the top Italian players often playing in France which means that the Italian league is not a particularly good place to build the national team.
Changes for 2008–2009 Rugby Calvisano were forced to pull out of the competition for the 09–10 season due to financial difficulties, setting up an amateur side in the Serie A. Roman clubs Capitolina and Futura Park Roma decided to combine and have also taken Calvisano's place in Europe due to their league position. These 2 clubs would also be the basis of the proposed new Magners League side, Praetorians Roma. L'Aquila and Prato were promoted from Serie A taking Calvisano's place and the spare Roman club's place.
Celtic League participation 
Despite rising playing standards and more media attention on rugby union, Italian teams competing in the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup, have generally struggled to compete against the more established club teams of the other Six Nations countries. In response to this both John Kirwan, the former Italian coach, and David Pickering, the Welsh Rugby Union chairman, suggested that merged Italian teams should enter the Magners League, and in March 2009 the Celtic Rugby Board (Magners League) and FIR announced an agreement in principle to add two Italian teams to the Magners League for 2010–11. These 2 teams are intended to offer Italian qualified players a higher standard of rugby to hone their skills. It will remove the best Italian players from the Super 10. It is envisaged after the change that the Super 10 will be a semi-professional league only.
The two new Magners League teams were announced on 18 July 2009 as Aironi, based in Viadana, and Praetorians Roma, from the capital. As of October 2009 it was announced the 2 teams to join the Magners League will be Benetton Treviso and the newly formed club Aironi. Praetorians Roma were nominated in the first round but failed to meet the criteria set down by the evaluators and Benetton Treviso were nominated instead. These new sides would also take the Italian qualification spots in the Heineken Cup, and in future Super 10 champions would not likely play in Europe. However, these plans will not change before the 2010–11 season; while the new Magners League sides will take up Italy's Heineken Cup places, Italy will retain its previous four places in the Challenge Cup, which will be taken by top Super 10 teams.
Currently the Italian Senior leagues are structured in the following way:-
- Italian Elite Championship (Campionato Nazionale Eccellenza) made up of 10 teams; the first four go into the playoff stage and the winner is Italian Champion; the last classified is relegated in Serie A division 1.
- Serie A: apparently Serie A is a unique-level tier, but is actually a two-ranks Division:
- Serie A pool 1: 12 teams that play each other home and away. The first three go into a playoff stage with the first one of pool 2 to win a place for the next Super 10; the last two go into a playout stage with the 9th and 10th of the pool 2; the loser go to Serie B, the winner are reassigned to pool 1, the midst two to pool 2.
- Serie A pool 2: same number of teams and structure as pool 1. The winner is promoted at least to pool 1, plus goes into the abovementioned playoff stage and has the possibility to be promoted in Super 10; the 12th goes straight in Serie B
- Serie B: divided in 4 same-rank pools of 12 teams each who play each other home and away; a playoff stage determines the 2 teams that are promoted to Serie A division 2
- Serie C: is the very 5th tier of Italian rugby union; is divided into regional divisions
The junior league is structured in the following way:
- Under 19 Championship: 3 divisions of 10 teams who play each other home and away
Past winners 
|2001–02||Rugby Viadana||19–12||Rugby Calvisano|
|2002–03||Benetton Treviso||34–12||Rugby Calvisano|
|2003–04||Benetton Treviso||22–10||Rugby Calvisano|
|2004–05||Rugby Calvisano||25–20||Benetton Treviso|
|2005–06||Benetton Treviso||17–12||Rugby Calvisano|
|2006–07||Benetton Treviso||28–24 (a.e.t)||Rugby Viadana|
|2007–08||Rugby Calvisano||20–3||Benetton Treviso|
|2008–09||Benetton Treviso||29–20||Rugby Viadana|
|2009–10||Benetton Treviso||16–12||Rugby Viadana|
|2010–11||Petrarca Padova||18–14||Rovigo Delta|
|2011–12||Calvisano||43–36 (agr)||Cavalieri Prato|
Performance by club 
Club Winners Winning Years Amatori Rugby Milano – Ambrosiana Milano 18 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996 Benetton Treviso 15 1956, 1978, 1983, 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 Petrarca 12 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2011 Rugby Rovigo 11 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1976, 1979, 1988, 1990 Rugby Roma 5 1935, 1937, 1948, 1949, 2000 Fiamme Oro Padova 5 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1968 L'Aquila Rugby 5 1967, 1969, 1981, 1982, 1994 Parma Rugby 3 1950, 1955, 1957 Calvisano 3 2005, 2008, 2012 Partenope 2 1965, 1966 Viadana 1 2002 Concordia Brescia Rugby 1 1975 Ginnastica Torino 1 1947
See also 
- Rugby union in Italy
- Italy national rugby union team
- Heineken Cup
- European Challenge Cup
- European Shield
- [Overview: Italy's Super 10 http://www.rugby365.com/all_news/nbc/italy/news/1916482.htm]
- [Top-level Italian exports threaten to damage domestic product http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2006/mar/19/sixnations2006.rugbyunion6]
- [PICKERING: WE HAVE TO IMPROVE LEAGUE http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=161366&command=displayContent&sourceNode=258861&home=yes&more_nodeId1=161375&contentPK=20934679]
- "Celtic door opens up for Italy". Scrum.com. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-03-26.