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FIR optimistic of ending conflict

Italy's rugby bosses are confident they can bring a swift end to the player strike that threatens to undermine the Azzurri's Rugby World Cup preparations.

Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) executives held crisis talks with players and their agents in Calvisano on Tuesday night, in a bid to thrash out World Cup bonus deals.

Italy's 40-strong training squad refused to take part in camp work on Monday, demanding match-by-match bonuses for the autumn World Cup competition.

Team bosses have admitted they are now discussing the players' demands, after initially refusing to budge on their one-off bonus payment plan.

"The federation's leaders have met today with the players of the national team and their representatives in Calvisano," read an Italy Rugby statement.

"During the meeting the basis for reaching a collective agreement was formed, for the participation in the pre-season camp and the Rugby World Cup in September in England, in accordance with the principles proposed by the federation and the demands, not only economic, of the athletes.

"The agreements will soon be formalised in view of a prompt resumption of the squad in preparation for the Rugby World Cup."

Italy's early World Cup preparations were thrown into disarray on Monday when the players went on strike over tournament bonuses.

An initial 40-strong squad gathered for Italy's June 14 to July 3 camp near Bolzano, although captain Sergio Parisse and talisman prop Martin Castrogiovanni were absent through French Top 14 play-off commitments.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel now finds himself caught in the middle of the dispute between players and officials when he ought to be fine-tuning the Azzurri's World Cup plans.

The FIR claimed a "final proposal" had already been offered to the players when confirming the strike on Monday, but has now it seems been forced to relax its position.

"I'm disappointed by the attitude taken by the athletes," said FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi when confirming the strike on Monday.

"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, before lining up against Ireland, France, Canada and Romania in Pool D in September's global battle.


From Belfast Telegraph