And particularly nice to see them defeat the French, whose press has been very scathing of the Italian team's right to compete with the old Five Nations teams on performance grounds. (Only the Auld Alliance can explain why there was no mention of Scotland in this respect.)
The whole shebang started well, from the formalities onward....
The Italian national anthem is something else....full of references to the Austrian eagle losing its feathers, Scipio's helmet, and, to anyone brought up on the description of the Italian army as having sunburned armpits (thank you, father), the request made of the brothers of Italy as to the whereabouts of victory does tend to raise a smile.
Still, as it was originally a poem written in the period of Italian reunion and the fight against occupying powers one must expect a bit of floweriness and it makes a change from the Marseillaise, with foreign blood running in the furrows and that sad dirge 'Flower of Scotland'.
France dominated early, but fell to pieces in the second half as the brothers of Italy not only resisted but fought.....and found victory.
The French coach later accused his men of cowardice and incompetence and it's just as well that, unlike the armies of the early years of the French republic, he had not brought a travelling guillotine with him as a means of inducing fervour in the ranks as otherwise heads might have literally been rolling.
Which brings us to the animal.
Image by abac077 via Flickr
No, not the fox that was loose at Twickenham for the Calcutta Cup match, but the real animal, the cave man,
Not a pretty sight, it has to be said, but one which has reassured French rugby fans for years as the bearded, long haired figure came off the bench to spread mayhem among the opponents by the speed and aggression of his tackling.
I remember him tearing into England in the preliminary rounds of the 2007 World Cup, held in France, where the night skies around me in the depths of rural France resounded to raucous, triumphant renderings of the Marseillaise, foreign blood having been flowing well in the furrow on that occasion.
Even then his wind seemed to be going....he was finding it hard to get through a whole match...but when he came on, both team and crowd picked up their spirits....the cave man had arrived and the tide would turn for France.
While I am sure he is a model family man and probably, being a French professional sportsman, reads philosophy and writes poetry in what time he can spare between tearing carcasses apart and throwing tractors, it has to be said that I don't think I'd appreciate him galloping toward me like a human version of the juggernaut on the field of play....and a number of rugby union players have clearly been of the same opinion.
Thus his value to France.
But I think he lost his magic in that World Cup series of 2007.
First, France lost to England in the semi finals....and his shock and disbelief was palpable.
Night skies around me in rural France decidedly quiet.
Then Argentina beat France in the play off for third place...and showed the rugby world how to counter Chabal.
He had come off the bench, and the crowd roared its approval. His colleagues picked themselves up...their morale was boosted...the wonder worker was there.
Then Argentina made a substitution too....and onto the field trotted a mammoth, the personification of a brick shithouse. An ambulatory one.
Play restarted. Chabal had the ball and the brick shithouse went straight for him, picked him up as though he were featherlight and slammed him into the ground.
The brick shithouse was sent off.....but his purpose had been accomplished. Chabal was a spent force, unable to prevent his team going down to a mighty defeat.
I don't think he has ever been the same player since.
However, he has been a good servant to French rugby and it is sad to see him in the tumbril with the other five players dropped by the French coach for the last match in the tournament....and perhaps for good.