Carlo Canna: the Man to step out from the shadow of Diego Domínguez

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Carlo Canna: the Man to step from the shadow of Diego Domínguez
Italy's fly-half Carlo Canna kicks the ball during the Six Nations international rugby union match Italys vs Wales on February 5, 2017 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. / AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Standing at 6 foot 3 inches, Carlo Canna muscled his way into the Azzurri side in 2015. An exciting young talent; still just 25 years of age. The Zebre fly-half took over the role from Tommaso Allan, and has been tutored ever since from one of the most canny operators in English rugby.

Former England fly-half, Mike Catt, earned his 75 caps for England using guile, skill and tactical awareness. The Rugby World Cup winner is firmly entrenched in the coaching setup in Rome, and alongside Conor O’Shea have invested time and energy into Canna.

Carlo Canna is an exciting talent and set to be star within this Italy side in the 2018 NatWest 6Nations. He instrumented a fine display, as part of the group that incredibly beat the Springboks in 2016. As well, Carlo performs well for his club side Zebre in the Pro14.

The versatile playmaker has the ability to play to play numbers 10, 12 or even 15; but fly-half is the where the hopes of a nation lie. Those hopes have been kindling ever since the retirement of all-time great Diego Domínguez – and for the Azzuri fans, no-one has lived up to his billing…..that is, until now.

Emulating the Great One

Domínguez was the embodiment of Italian rugby when he played. Despite being born in Argentina, the enigmatic fly-half was the heartbeat of Italian rugby during the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Diego Dominguez, Italy. Six Nations Rugby International, Ireland v Italy, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images)

One of only five players to have scored more than 1000 international test points, Domínguez sits at the very top table of international rugby. Men like Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson, Ronan O’Gara and Neil Jenkins are his peers.

No one has stepped up to fill the giant hole left by the great man, since he hung up his boots in 2003. The Italian Rugby Federation even convinced Domínguez to delay his international retirement in 2000, when Italy were inducted into the newly formed Six Nations.

Diego’s game was based around exciting rugby, but at its heart was an accurate kicking game and dead-eye accuracy in clinch moments. If those are the performance indicators which any new player needs to meet, than the applicants are yet to ‘reach the grade’.

Azzuri Candidates [since 2003]

The first fly-half to take the role after the departure of Domínguez, was Ramiro Pez.  The fellow Argentine-born pivot made his debut in 2000 under the guidance of the great man. Pez went on to play until 2007, amassing over 250 international points.

Although a solid choice, Pez never really looked likely to take Italy a ‘step forward’ from Domínguez. What Italy needed was a a new playmaker, to direct them over the last ten years of test matches.

The list of fly-halves since those two took the reigns, is long without many success stories. Italian debutantes at fly-half since Dominguez’s retirement include:

  • Rima Wakarua-Noema 2003
  • Luciano Orquera 2004 (debut as a substitute)
  • Paolo Buso 2008
  • Luke McLean 2008
  • Craig Gower 2009
  • Riccardo Bocchino 2010
  • Tobie Botes 2012
  • Alberto Di Bernardo 2013
  • Tommaso Allan 2013
  • Kelly Haimona 2014
  • Carlo Canna 2015 (debut as a centre)
  • Edoardo Padovani 2016

Carlo Canna enters this tournament as the latest in a long line hoping to mark their stamp on the Italy number 10 shirt.

Carlo Canna Domestic and 6 Nations Form

Zebre have only won three of 13 games during this season’s Guinness Pro14 competition. A home victory against Ulster, followed an away victory at the Southern Kings in late September, were highlights. The Italian side were looking good for a positive start to the season with Canna at the heart.

The man from Beneventu has seven appearances in the 6 Nations to his name–starting six times for the Azzuri. Interestingly, Conor O’Shea made the decision not to play Canna against England in 2017. The theory was to make sure he wasn’t affected if the game turned into a battering.

Having never tasted victory at the 6Nations, the youngster may struggle in those key moments. However, his best game in the tournament was against France in 2016, with a 13 point haul. That included a try and a drop goal. While the game was a narrow defeat away from home, the signs were good from Canna.

Considering his two years of development under the tutelage of O’Shea and Mike Catt, the promising first five might be ready to take control. It’s time for someone else to step up and carry the hopes of this proud rugby nation. The time is right for Canna to be the heir to Domínguez. Many of his fans will agree, that Canna is the one – corrispondere! 

With the support of the Azzuri, it won’t be a surprise to see him make a big impact on the 6Nations in 2018.

Round One sees Italy host England, at Stadio Olimpico.

“Main photo credit”
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