With the 2020 Six Nations set to resume after its coronavirus-enforced hiatus, most fans’ attention will be focused on France, England and Scotland as they vie for this year’s title.
However, we’re casting our eyes down to the bottom of the table where Italy are on course to receive their 15th wooden spoon of the Six Nations era.
Seven points adrift with a maximum of eight available, the Italians are once again likely to find themselves playing for pride by the end of the tournament.
With three defeats from three matches before play was suspended, this could yet be one of their worst showings at a Six Nations, but how does it rank among previous wooden-spoon performances?
The worst showing by a last-placed team since the competition was expanded to six teams in 2000 was Italy’s 2017 side.
Not only were they whitewashed – like 13 of the previous wooden spoon recipients, nine of whom were Italian teams – but they also had the worst point difference and try difference of all time and lost three home games.
The next most forgettable wooden-spoon performance was the 2005 Italian team, who suffered all the same indignities as their 2017 selves but with marginally better point and try differences.
The ignominious bottom three is completed by another Italian side from 2001 whose margins of defeat were slightly narrower again but scored only two tries in the entire competition.
As it turns out, the five worst-faring wooden spoon recipients – and eight of the most abject 10 – have been Italian, punctuated by the Scottish teams of 2015 and 2004.
There were two notable Italy performances under the current format which weren’t quite as dismal as the ones mentioned above.
Their first appearance under the new format in 2000 saw them concede a record number of points (228) but also score the joint-most by a last-placed team (106).
More recently in 2018 their 11 tries – including enough to register a bonus point in a narrow defeat to Scotland – was the highest tally registered by a last-placed team to date.
We finish with a mention of the least-deserving wooden spoon winners to date: the 2013 France team.
The French finished with three points – from a win and a draw – and only conceded six tries, scoring the same number in return. Only point difference saw them finish below Ireland, who they drew with 13-13 in Dublin.
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