When scrumhalf Alessandro Troncon was chaired off the pitch at the end of his 101st and final match for Italy one of the big questions facing the Azzurri was who would take over the No.9 jersey.
It was something that taxed coach Nick Mallett from the day he took over in October 2007 to the extent he played flank Mauro Bergamasco at scrumhalf against England in early 2009 in a disastrous experiment that was quickly aborted after just 40 minutes as the Azzurri lost 36-11 at Twickenham.
Last season, though, South African Mallett received a timely gift of not one, but two highly competitive scrum halves that meant Italy could finally begin to move on from the Troncon era.
Mallett gave Edoardo Gori his debut cap in the November international against Australia before he had started a match for his club Treviso.
When Gori was injured at the start of the 2011 Six Nations, Fabio Semenzato came into the side and made such an impression he was nominated for player of the tournament.
"I'm delighted for him (Semenzato) because he has made gigantic strides in the past two years," Troncon said. ''Two years ago he was a good player, but lacked something.
"He also had a major injury to his liver after someone's knee went into it. He lost a lot of time and 7kg or 8kg. He reacted positively, though, and worked hard to return. He deserves to be where he is."
Pablo Canavosio is the third scrumhalf in the squad and the most capped of the trio with 37 appearances.
"Without a doubt we have some good scrumhalves and this is a good group of players," Troncon added. ''We have to thank the clubs and the academies for what they have done in this regard as they are helping us move in the right direction."
Following Troncon's retirement, the Italian Rugby Federation quickly brought him on board as part of its coaching team, where he is now the backs coach.
Troncon scored 19 tries on his way to becoming the only Italian to win more than 100 caps. He also played for Clermont Auvergne in France's Top 14 and his hometown club Treviso in Italy's Super 10.
However, he does not feel any pangs of regret about hanging up his boots. "I definitely don't miss playing, and coaching is a totally different role," Troncon said. ''As a player, you are at the centre of attention and everything is organised for you.
''Rugby is something I love, but when I stopped I knew it was the right time for me. My body understood that it was time to stop. Now I prefer to stay on the sidelines, observe and coach."
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