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Castrogiovanni accused of never being eligible to play for Italy

By Liam Heagney
Martin Castrogiovanni was born in Argentina, but represented Italy at international level. (Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Famed Italy tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni has been accused of never being eligible to play for the Azzurri after he talked about his family background during a recent interview. Born in Parana in Argentina, the retired 40-year-old prop won 119 caps for his adopted European country between 2002 and 2016.

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In an in-depth interview published on rugbychampagneweb.com, the front-rower explained his family background, telling the interviewer: “Grandpa Castro was born in Argentina, his name was Jose Maria. The one who was Italian was my great-grandfather, Angel, who was born in Sicily, in Franco Forte.”

This detail has now been fastened onto by Tier 2 Rugby, a busy social media account containing news and opinions focusing on tier two rugby nations. A tweet in reply to the interview claimed that Castrogiovanni was never eligible to play for Italy.

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“Wow. One of Italy’s best players of the modern era, Martin Castrogiovanni, who played in four World Cups and won 119 caps over a 14-year international career, admits only his great-grandfather was Italian and thus should not have been eligible for Italy.”

The claim sparked an online debate regarding the eligibility rules that governed the international rugby scene at that time when Castrogiovanni made his breakthrough.

The Tier 2 Rugby account went on to add: “Italy did play RWC qualifiers back in 2002. They faced Spain and Romania in a three-team round-robin with the top two sides qualifying. As Castro played both those games (and was not yet eligible then on residency either), Spain should have qualified for RWC 2003.”

One reader, Salomon Tardman, insisted that Castrogiovanni was eligible to play. “The eligibility rules were different in each country at the time, not yet unified by World Rugby,” he explained. “I think to remember Italy allowed for third-generation emigrants to play for them if they hadn’t played for another country at senior level. So Castro, and Italy, respected the rules.”

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The debate regarding the eligibility rules from 20 years ago potentially preventing Spain from qualifying for the 2003 World Cup in Australia is ironic in the sense that the Spanish were disqualified in recent months from the 2023 World Cup next year in France for fielding an ineligible player in two of their qualifying matches.

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