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.
Both were predicted to be the league’s whipping boys but Treviso have pulled off four wins from nine including a hugely impressive win over last year’s runners up Leinster in September while Aironi have pushed several teams close on home soil.
And Griffen insists the next generation of Italian players including 19-year-old Tommaso Benvenuti will really benefit from the stronger competition ahead of the 2011 World Cup.
He said: “There is definite reason for optimism from Italian fans, especially with the way Treviso have started the season.
“I still keep in touch with a lot of the boys in the national squad, as we went through a lot over a long time.
“Then there’s Tommaso Benvenuti, who is currently starting on the wing, but he looks a quality centre. I’m backing him to go a long way.
“I do feel that Nick Mallett is pushing the team forward, but it’s a completely different mentality to Pierre Berbizier, like chalk and cheese.
“Nick has got a good core and a good group of leaders and he’s also got Sergio and Castro who are two of the best in the world in their positions.
“Looking to the World Cup, it’s going to be tough to get out of our group with Ireland and Australia, but it’s definitely possible.”
Griffen is currently playing for Calvisano in the second flight of Italian rugby, but he confesses that he would have enjoyed the chance to play for one of the two Italian Magners League clubs.
And while he now readily accepts that he is closer to the end of his career than the start, Griffen feels he still has something to offer to Italian rugby.
He said: “From a personal point of view I’m taking it year by year. I’ve got at least another year left, but the body is starting to get older and the knocks take a little bit longer to get over.
“I’ve been here 10 years, and now I’m starting to do a little coaching, so hopefully something can develop from that. I still think I’ve got a little bit to offer and help the young guys.
“But I’ve done what I wanted for footy for those ten years and now other things have to take priority.
“I have two young kids, the oldest who is in school and loving it. I’d like to stay in Italy long term, but we’ll have to see how it works out.”