Di Ciacca reflects on a learning curve

PATIENCE may be a virtue, but sometimes it can be a pain being made to wait. For Carlo Di Ciacca, however, the delay in making his first competitive start for Edinburgh Rugby was a necessary part of a the professional process.

A solid performance in Edinburgh’s win against Swansea on Friday night, which included accurate throwing at the lineout, showed why the Gunners were justified in offering the former West of Scotland player a professional contract six months ago.

Di Ciacca said: "It was well worth the wait. I knew when I signed for Edinburgh that I wasn’t going to get straight into the team, but my aim was to break into the squad of 22 and wait for the start to come along. I am just glad that it has eventually happened, and now all I want is for us to keep winning."

One of a trio of promising young Scottish players of Italian extraction - Edinburgh’s Marcus Di Rollo and Boroughmuir’s Chris Capaldi are the others - who played together for Scotland at schoolboy and youth levels, at one point it appeared that Di Ciacca might be forced to move to his ancestral homeland to get the professional status he craved.

Mike Brewer at the L’Aquila club in Italy had spotted Di Ciacca’s burgeoning talents, and tried to sign the man who learned his rugby at St Aloysius’ College. Such a move would almost certainly have seen Di Ciacca called into the Italian international set-up, for like Capaldi and Di Rollo he was qualified to play for the Azzurri.

Their joint loyalty to Scotland has never been in doubt, however, though at the time Di Ciacca rejected a move to L’Aquila he did not know if he would be drafted into one or other of the professional sides.

That is the situation now facing Capaldi, and Di Ciacca has three words of advice for the Boroughmuir flanker, who will surely turn professional next year: "Stay in Scotland."

Di Ciacca said: "Chris is a great player, and we really need people like him to stay in the professional game in Scotland. I have played alongside him at schools and youth level for Scotland, and I’m delighted he has been named in the A squad. It would be a great pity if he had to go elsewhere to play as a professional."

Di Ciacca had to move east to get his professional break, but only from Bearsden to Myreside. With Glasgow having a full complement of hookers, Edinburgh began talking to Di Ciacca early last year, and completed his signing before the start of a season, which the hooker admits has been disappointing for all concerned.

"We knew we needed to go out and win against Swansea on Friday, especially as it was a home game. There is no doubt it has been disappointing for us, particularly in the Heineken Cup, and everyone has been feeling the pressure.

"After the game in Biarritz we worked very hard on a number of things, and I am just delighted to have been part of a winning side which showed competitive spirit."

Di Ciacca prides himself on loyalty, and was pleased that he could repay Edinburgh Rugby for their faith in him: "I owe a lot to the Edinburgh management and coaches. I had confidence in my ability, and they showed they had belief in me, too, so I was delighted to come here, and with 18 months left on my contract, my principal aim is to get that renewed and carry on playing for Edinburgh."

Edinburgh’s first-choice hooker, Steve Scott, is the example to whom Di Ciacca refers when asked for a source of inspiration: "It’s never easy sitting on the bench, but I knew it was going to be difficult to break into the side because Steve Scott is such a great player and good professional. He deserves to be in the Scotland squad preparing for the Six Nations, and my aim this year has been to learn from him.

"Allan Jacobsen and Craig Smith sat on the bench for their first year in the professional game, and it hasn’t done them any harm, judging by their selection for the national squads. My main disappointment last year was not being selected for any of those squads after being involved for the development game against Tonga. But I’m only 24, and my main concern is to get as many games under my belt as I can.

"Obviously, the ultimate goal for any player is to play and win for your country. If I didn’t believe I could at least try for that, then I would not have turned professional."

Di Ciacca has lost weight and muscled up under the fitness regime of Edinburgh’s trainer Kenny Hume, and in the 30-20 victory over Swansea he showed that he will not shirk the hard tasks of rucking and tackling.

"That has been one of the benefits of full-time training," he observed. "Another is the chance to see videos of games, and learn how things like a bad refereeing decision can turn a game. These turning points have been going against us lately, but we have shown we can win and we just need to keep on winning."