Italy players strike over bonuses
Italy's Rugby World Cup preparations have been thrown into disarray by a player strike over tournament bonuses.
The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) claims to have "taken note" of the players' stance, that includes demanding a match-by-match bonus scheme.
Italy will face Ireland and France in Pool D at the World Cup, but their bosses are refusing to budge on the plan for a one-off bonus payment linked to full tournament performance.
An initial 40-strong squad gathered for Italy's June 14 to July 3 camp near Bolzano, though captain Sergio Parisse and talisman prop Martin Castrogiovanni were absent through French Top 14 play-off commitments.
"The Italian Rugby Federation has taken note of the willingness expressed last night by the players called to the rally in Villabassa with the National Team, not to take part in the training and not to wear (FIR) sports equipment until reaching an economic agreement for participation in the summer preparation and the Rugby World Cup in September in England," read an FIR statement.
"The stance of last night does not change the will of the Federal Council - fully shared by the staff of the national team - to reach a financial settlement with the players based not on mere participation in international windows but on concrete meritocratic principles related to performance."
The FIR claim a "final proposal" has already been offered to the players, admitting the training camp will be suspended until an agreement is reached.
"I'm disappointed by the attitude taken by the athletes," said FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi.
"The offer that was presented is consistent with our current positioning and with agreements between athletes and federations closest to us in the rankings.
"We remain confident that, as always, common sense will prevail, and together we can give an important turning point in the future in relations between the federation and the Azzurri."
Italy will face Scotland home and away then Wales in their World Cup warm-up matches in August, before lining up against Ireland, France, Canada and Romania in Pool D in September's global battle.