The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
That exposure to top-level rugby on a regular basis is the first step to making Italy a force in the world game according to Mallett but he warned it maybe some time before signs of progress are seen on the pitch.
He said: “It is a critical moment in the history of Italian rugby – I can’t think of an event that can match its long-term importance.
“I have pushed very hard for this for a long time. The quality of the rugby in the Italian Championship is no better than amateur club rugby in South Africa.
“It is impossible for players to prepare for the demands of international rugby when they are playing at such a poor level of rugby.
“My only frustration was that it did not happen five years ago because that could have changed the course of Italian rugby and we are five years behind where we could be.
“It will take time for the national side to feel the effects of these changes and I imagine there will be some poor results in the short term.
“But in the long-term this is crucial to allowing Italy to compete as an equal in the Six Nations.”
Mallett’s first priority is to persuade the likes of Italy captain Leonardo Ghiraldini and standout No.8 Alessandro Zanni that their futures remain in their homeland despite interest from a host of elite European clubs.
While the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parrise are always going to be out of the Italian Rugby Union’s price range, Mallett is already making moves to bring former captain Marco Bortolami back from an unhappy spell at Gloucester.
The days of former Wallabies and All Blacks picking up big-figure pay checks in Italy are also at an end with Mallett imposing a five-foreigner rule and all would have to be eligible for Italian citizenship.
He added: “It would not just be a case of signing up a lot of former All Black half-backs – we want different players to offer their experience in a variety of positions who can help with development and be available one day to play international rugby.
“Not losing our best players is the first step in the right direction. That enables us to choose the number of games they play a year and stop them being at the beck and call of clubs who pay their wages.
“At the moment we are handicapped by not being able to manage our squad during the Six Nations but we believe we can offer players an attractive proposition in guaranteeing how many games they will play a year.
“It is not just about playing against a better quality of opposition, it is also about getting players used to playing in front of big crowds and with a much higher quality of referee which makes a huge difference.”