National Championship of Excellence

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National Championship of Excellence
Sport Rugby union football
Instituted 1929; 91 years ago (1929)
Number of teams 10
Country Italy
Holders Calvisano (2014–15)

The National Championship of Excellence is the current name of the highest tier of the national rugby union competition in Italy[1] The first Italian championship took place in 1929, contested by six of the sixteen teams that existed in Italy at that time.

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 play-offs have one feature which distinguish them from rugby play-offs in most other countries; the semi-finals are two-legged, with the winner determined by aggregate score.

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 Federation (FIR) 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 began competing in the league now known as Pro12 in the 2010–11 season, and took both Italian places in the Heineken Cup. Due to financial problems, the FIR revoked Aironi's professional licence after the 2011–12 season; that team was replaced in Pro12 by the FIR-operated Zebre. From 2014–15, one of the two Italian Pro12 sides will compete in the Heineken Cup's replacement, the European Rugby Champions Cup; the other will play in the newly launched European Rugby Challenge Cup. Both Pro12 teams are intended to concentrate the best domestic talent and help develop the quality of Italian players and therefore improve the talent pool for the national team.


Names of the Italian National Rugby Championship
Eccellenza 1960–61 until 1964–65; 2010–11 to present
Super 10 2001–02 until 2009-10
Serie A1 1986–87 until 2000–01
Serie A 1928–29 until 1959–60; 1965–66 until 1985–86

Originally named Serie A since its origin in 1928–29 until 1959–60 season, the name of the national championship was changed to 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). After a major restructuring for the 2001–02 season, the national championship was named Super 10 and Serie A1 and A2 became the second and third divisions respectively. The name of championship was changed to Eccellenza once again for the 2010-11 season.

Rugby Calvisano were forced to pull out of the competition for the 2009–10 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 two 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.[2]

2014–15 teams

Locations of the 2014–15 Campionato Nazionale Eccellenza. The teams marked with a green dot are part of the RaboDirect Pro12 and do not compete domestically

The withdrawal of Viadana and Benetton Treviso from the league has been compounded by club mergers.[3][4] 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 two vacancies in the Super 10. Additionally Colorno and Noceto created vacancies in the second tier of Italian rugby as these five Parma area sides would only now field two professional senior teams between them. All five clubs are shareholders in Aironi. For the 2011–12 season, Calvisano, Reggio and San Gregorio Catania were all promoted. They took the places of Gran Parma, Roma Olimpic and Venezia Mestre

2014–2015 Campionato Nazionale Eccellenza:

The leading title holder is Amatori Milano who have won eighteen titles (the first one in 1929, the most recent in 1996); Benetton Treviso follow with fifteen (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 eleven titles each. Apart from the aforementioned teams no one has won more than five titles. The team that wins the Championship wears the Scudetto on their jerseys the following season, The clubs that hold at least ten titles win the right to wear a golden star on their jerseys.


Parma with (Crociati and GranDucato Rugby) is the only city to have two teams. The majority of the league teams are from either 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.

Italian rugby union is evolving; the clubs are better equipped, better organised and have improved their players training.[citation needed] There is an increase in sponsorship money and an influx of foreign players (some of whom have gone on to represent Italy after qualifying under the three year rule). In 2005 the FIR introduced a rule requiring teams to field at least twelve Italians in their twenty-two match squad. This was an effort to counter the top Italian players often playing in France, which means that the Italian league is not of a high enough standard to improve the national team.

Pro12 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 established club teams of the other Six Nations countries. In response 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, now known as Pro12,[5][6] 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.[7] The two teams were intended to offer Italian qualified players a higher standard of rugby to hone their skills. It removed the best Italian players from the top tier league, and it was envisaged that the Super 10 would be a semi-professional league.

On 18 July 2009 it was announced that the two Magners League teams would be the newly formed Aironi, based in Viadana, and Praetorians Roma, from the capital. As of October 2009, there was a change and it was announced the two teams will be Aironi and Benetton Treviso. Praetorians Roma were nominated in the first round but failed to meet the criteria set down by the evaluators and Benetton Treviso took their place. These new sides will also played in the Heineken Cup and Italy retained its four places in the Challenge Cup, which were taken by top Super 10 teams.

After the 2011–12 season, the first for the league under the Pro12 name, the FIR revoked the licence of Aironi due to financial problems. That team was replaced in Pro12 by a new FIR-operated side, Zebre.

Beginning in the 2014–15 season, the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup will be replaced by a new three-tiered European competition structure. The Heineken Cup will be replaced by the European Rugby Champions Cup; the European Challenge Cup will be replaced by the European Rugby Challenge Cup; and a new third-tier Qualifying Competition will be added. The highest-placed Italian Pro12 side automatically qualifies for the Champions Cup; the other Pro12 side will compete in the new Challenge Cup unless it qualifies for the Champions Cup by being one of the three highest-placed teams apart from the top team of each Pro12 country (Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales). Select sides from the Super 10 will play in the Qualifying Competition, to be held before the main season. Along with club sides from second-tier European rugby nations, the Super 10 sides will compete for two places in the new Challenge Cup.


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


Season Champion Score Runner-up
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
2012–13 Mogliano 16–11 Cavalieri Prato
2013–14 Calvisano 26–17 Rovigo Delta
2014–15 Calvisano 11-10 Rovigo Delta

Performance by club

Club Winners Winning Years
Amatori Rugby MilanoAmbrosiana 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
Calvisano 5 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015
Parma Rugby 3 1950, 1955, 1957
Partenope 2 1965, 1966
Viadana 1 2002
Concordia Brescia Rugby 1 1975
Ginnastica Torino 1 1947
Mogliano 1 2013

See also


  1. "Structure National Championships 2010/2011 football season". FIR (in Italian). 10 April 2010.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Overview: Italy's Super 10
  3. "Super X - Ready for merging in Parma, Venezia to score reprieve". blogosfere (in Italian). 3 June 2010.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Yes to Futura Park, Venezia saved". yahoo (in Italian). 17 July 2010.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Top-level Italian exports threaten to damage domestic product
  6. Pickering: We have to improve league
  7. "Celtic door opens up for Italy". 26 March 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links