Until the introduction of Italy made turned the Five Nations Championship into the Six Nations in 2000, there was just one colour-clash fixture to attend to each year.
International rugby still adheres to the tradition of the home side changing kit when a clash occurs and so France and Scotland used to take it in turns to wear white against each other. Italy’s arrival meant that there were now three such fixtures but the schedule was arranged in such a way that each country would change once each year – e.g. in season A, France v Scotland, Scotland v Italy and Italy v France; season B, Scotland v France, Italy v Scotland and France v Italy. This coming weekend, Scotland host Italy in what should have been the final round of fixtures for 2021, though the postponed Scotland-France game will take place at a later date.
The growing advent of commercialism has seen a changing of the countries’ shades of blue, too – while the Scotland first-choice shirt has remained navy, France have oscillated between royal and navy blue while Italy have often had a brighter or lighter shade than their traditional Savoy blue.
By the time of the 2013 fixture against Scotland at Murrayfield, Italy had entered into a new deal with adidas, who outfitted them in a similar blue to previous kit manufacturers Kappa. Realistically, there would have been no confusion between that and the traditional Scotland strip (right).
Had Scotland still had the white strip that was introduced at the time of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (left), things would have been fine, but instead they had a new alternative kit, incorporating the national flag, with its lighter blue, very similar to that of the Italian shirt.
The result was a mix of white and blue that can’t have been easy for players, spectators or officials.
Scotland triumphed 34-10 and would win again, albeit on a closer 30-29 scoreline, when they met Italy that summer in a quadrangular tournament in South Africa. On this occasion, however, white shorts were used in order to increase the differentiation between the two teams.