|Number of teams||12|
|Most titles||Amatori Milano (18 titles)|
The Top12 is the highest tier of the national rugby union competition in Italy. The first Italian championship took place in 1929, contested by six of the sixteen teams that existed in Italy at that time.
The competition runs from September to May. After a home-and-away season, the top four teams play a knock-out competition to decide the championship and the last two teams are relegated. The season-ending play-offs have one feature which distinguish them from rugby play-offs in most other countries; the semi-finals are two-legged, with the winner determined by aggregate score.
Until season 2008-09 the Super 10 was operated by the L.I.R.E. (Lega Italiana Rugby d'Eccellenza, Italian Elite Rugby (Union) League), but since its folding (in 2009), the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has taken over its organisation.
The leading Top12 teams qualify to play against teams from the other leading rugby union nations in Europe in the European Challenge Cup. Aironi and Benetton Treviso began competing in the league now known as Pro14 in the 2010-11 season, and took both Italian places in the Heineken Cup. Due to financial problems, the FIR revoked Aironi's professional licence after the 2011-12 season; that team was replaced in Pro12 by the FIR-operated Zebre. From 2014-15, one of the two Italian Pro12 sides competes in the Heineken Cup's replacement, the European Rugby Champions Cup; the other plays in the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Both Pro12 teams are intended to concentrate the best domestic talent and help develop the quality of Italian players and therefore improve the talent pool for the national team.
|Names of the Italian National Rugby Championship|
|Divisione Nazionale||1928-29 until 1945-46|
|Serie A||1945-46 until 1959-60; 1965-66 until 1985-86|
|Serie A1||1986-87 until 2000-01|
|Super 10||2001-02 until 2009-10|
|Eccellenza||1960-61 until 1964-65; 2010-11 until 2017-18|
Originally named Divisione Nazionale since its origin in 1928-29 until 1945-46 season, the name of the National Championship was changed to Serie A until 1959-60, when was changed to Eccellenza from 1960-61 until 1964-65, then Serie A again until 1985-86. In 1986-87 it was named Serie A1 and the second tier took the name as Serie A2. Since the season 1987-88 the Championship has gone into a play-off phase after a regular season, and the title is assigned through a final (several venues have hosted the final match, notably Padua, Bologna and Rome). After a major restructuring for the 2001-02 season, the national championship was named Super 10 and Serie A1 and A2 became the second and third divisions respectively. The name of championship was changed to Eccellenza once again for the 2010-11 season. Before the 2018-19 season, the competition was increased to 12 teams and rebranded as the Top12.
The withdrawal of Viadana and Benetton Treviso from the league has been compounded by club mergers.Rugby Viadana, GRAN Parma and Rugby Colorno have merged to form GranDucato Parma Rugby. Parma RFC and Noceto RFC have merged to form Crociati Parma RFC, both new clubs to be based in Parma. These changes created two vacancies in the Super 10. Additionally Colorno and Noceto created vacancies in the second tier of Italian rugby as these five Parma area sides would only now field two professional senior teams between them. All five clubs are shareholders in Aironi. For the 2011-12 season, Calvisano, Reggio Emilia and San Gregorio Catania were all promoted. They took the places of GRAN Parma, Roma Olimpic and Veneziamestre.
|San Donà||1959||San Donà di Piave, Veneto||Stadio Romolo Pacifici||1,500|
|Calvisano||1970||Calvisano, Lombardy||Stadio San Michele||5,000||7 (2019)|
|Colorno||1975||Colorno, Emilia-Romagna||Stadio Gino Maini||1,000|
|Fiamme Oro||1955||Rome, Lazio||Centro Sportivo Polizia di Stato||1,300||5 (1968)|
|S.S. Lazio||1927||Rome, Lazio||Centro sportivo Giulio Onesti||1,300|
|I Medicei||2015||Florence, Tuscany||Ruffino Stadium Mario Lodigiani||2,000|
|Lyons Piacenza||1963||Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna||Stadio Comunale Beltrametti||3,000|
|Mogliano||1956||Mogliano, Veneto||Stadio Maurizio Quaggia||786||1 (2013)|
|Petrarca||1947||Padua, Veneto||Stadio Plebiscito||7,715||13 (2018)|
|Rovigo Delta||1935||Rovigo, Veneto||Stadio Mario Battaglini||5,500||12 (2016)|
|Valorugby Emilia||1970||Reggio nell'Emilia, Emilia-Romagna||Stadio Mirabello||4,500|
|Viadana||1970||Viadana, Lombardy||Stadio Luigi Zaffanella||6,000||1 (2002)|
The leading title holder is Amatori Milano who have won eighteen titles (the first one in 1929, the most recent in 1996) before being disbanded in 2011; Benetton Treviso follow with fifteen (first in 1956 as Rugby Treviso); Petrarca (rugby union club from Padua that won their first title in 1970) with thirteen and Rovigo (first title in 1951) who won twelve titles. Apart from the aforementioned teams no one has won more than five titles. The team that wins the Italian championship wears the Scudetto on their jerseys the following season, The clubs that hold at least ten titles win the right to wear a golden star on their jerseys.
Despite rising playing standards and more media attention on rugby union, Italian teams competing in the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup have generally struggled to compete against the established club teams of the other Six Nations countries. In response both John Kirwan, the former Italian head coach, and David Pickering, the Welsh Rugby Union chairman, suggested that merged Italian teams should enter the Celtic League, now known as Pro14, and in March 2009 the Celtic Rugby Board and FIR announced an agreement in principle to add two Italian teams to the Magners League for 2010-11. The two teams were intended to offer Italian qualified players a higher standard of rugby to hone their skills. It removed the best Italian players from the top tier league, and it was envisaged that the Super 10 would be a semi-professional league.
On 18 July 2009 it was announced that the two Magners League teams would be the newly formed Aironi, based in Viadana, and "Praetorians Roma", from the capital. As of October 2009, there was a change and it was announced the two teams will be Aironi and Benetton Treviso. Praetorians Roma were nominated in the first round but failed to meet the criteria set down by the evaluators and Benetton Treviso took their place. These new sides will also played in the Heinken Cup and Italy retained its four places in the Challenge Cup, which were taken by top Super 10 teams, become Eccellenza, orphan of Benetton Treviso and Viadana.
After the 2011-12 season, the first for the league under the Pro12 name, the FIR revoked the licence of Aironi due to financial problems. That team was replaced in Pro12 by a new FIR operated side, Zebre.
Beginning in the 2014-15 season, the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup will be replaced by a new three-tiered European competition structure: the Heineken Cup will be replaced by the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Challenge Cup will be replaced by the European Rugby Challenge Cup, and a new third-tier Qualifying Competition will be added. The highest-placed Italian Pro12 side automatically qualifies for the Champions Cup, the other Pro12 side will compete in the new Challenge Cup unless it qualifies for the Champions Cup by being one of the three highest-placed teams apart from the top team of each Pro12 country (Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales). Select sides from the Excellence will play in the Qualifying Competition, to be held before the main season. Along with club sides from second-tier European rugby nations, the Eccellenza sides will compete for two places in the new European Rugby Challenge Cup with 4 teams. From the 2016-17 season the third-tier is named European Rugby Continental Shield.
Currently the Italian senior leagues are structured in the following way:
|2001-02||Arix Viadana||19-12||Ghial Calvisano|
|2002-03||Benetton Treviso||34-12||Ghial Calvisano|
|2003-04||Benetton Treviso||22-10||Ghial Calvisano|
|2004-05||Ghial Calvisano||25-20||Benetton Treviso|
|2005-06||Benetton Treviso||17-12||Ghial Calvisano|
|2006-07||Benetton Treviso||28-24 (a.e.t)||Arix Viadana|
|2007-08||Cammi Calvisano||20-3||Benetton Treviso|
|2008-09||Benetton Treviso||29-20||Montepaschi Viadana|
|2009-10||Benetton Treviso||16-12||Montepaschi Viadana|
|2010-11||Carrera Petrarca Padova||18-14||Femi-CZ Rovigo Delta|
|2011-12||Cammi Calvisano||43-36||Estra I Cavalieri Prato|
|2012-13||Marchiol Mogliano||16-11||Estra I Cavalieri Prato|
|2013-14||Cammi Calvisano||26-17||Femi-CZ Vea Rovigo Delta|
|2014-15||Cammi Calvisano||11-10||Femi-CZ Rovigo Delta|
|2015-16||Femi-CZ Rovigo Delta||20-13||Calvisano|
|2016-17||Patarò Calvisano||43-29||Femi-CZ Rovigo Delta|
|Amatori Milano||18||1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996|
|Benetton Treviso||15||1956, 1978, 1983, 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010|
|Petrarca||13||1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2011, 2018|
|Rovigo||12||1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1976, 1979, 1988, 1990, 2016|
|Calvisano||7||2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019|
|Rugby Roma Olimpic||5||1935, 1937, 1948, 1949, 2000|
|L'Aquila||5||1967, 1969, 1981, 1982, 1994|
|Fiamme Oro||5||1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1968|
|Parma||3||1950, 1955, 1957|