Almost six years after he made his test debut, Andrea Piardi will become the first Italian referee to take charge of a Men’s Six Nations match in Dublin this weekend.

Piardi will be the whistleblower at the Aviva Stadium as Ireland look to continue their march towards a second consecutive Grand Slam against a Wales team searching for their first win of the campaign.

The 31-year-old from Brescia says his historic appointment is an acknowledgment of all Italian referees, and Italian rugby as a whole, not just a moment of personal satisfaction.

“I am very proud to be the first Italian to referee the Six Nations. It is a journey that started 10 years ago so I am really proud and really happy for myself, for my family, for my partner, for everyone that has supported me during this journey,” said the former back-row, who has refereed at two World Rugby U20 Championships and ran touch at the recent Rugby World Cup.

“It is a massive opportunity for me to show that I can be the first Italian to referee the Six Nations and I can open the door for the next generation of Italian referees.

“All Italian referees hoped that sooner or later, this designation would come, so it is a great joy and emotion for the entire refereeing community and not just referees but for the entire Italian Rugby Federation, including many fans who follow rugby in Italy.”

Andrea Piardi on becoming the first Italian referee in the Guinness Men's Six Nations (English subtitles)
Italy's Andrea Piardi talks about what it means to him to create history in the Men's Six Nations, what he enjoys about refereeing and those who have helped him along the way.

A packed Aviva Stadium will provide a very different backdrop to his debut test match, a 30-24 win for Switzerland against Poland in the Rugby Europe Trophy, which was watched by 800 spectators in Geneva.

Piardi has since gone on to referee 10 tests all told, as well as officiate at the highest level in European club rugby. But his approach always remains the same whatever the level or teams involved.

“The most challenging part of refereeing is to remain consistent and steady for 80 minutes. We have to work under pressure in a sometimes hostile environment, and to do this, we cannot be alone; we have to create a team around us,” said Piardi, for whom communicating with the players won’t be a problem on Saturday as his mother is an English teacher.

Piardi will be assisted on Saturday by Karl Dickson of the RFU and countryman Gianluca Gnecchi. Dickson was a colleague at Rugby World Cup 2023, where Piardi ran touch in seven games.

"It was a tremendous, huge experience that allowed me to grow a lot as a referee and to create new relationships with the colleagues by spending a month and a half in France with them, forming a team around me," he said, reflecting on his time at the tournament.

"I am satisfied with how it went. I am happy: the performances were good, so from my point of view, it was a great World Cup."

Piardi, meanwhile, says he has only been able to got where he is today with the support of his fellow Italian and former Brescia team-mate, Gnecchi.

“I started refereeing thanks to Gianluca Gnecchi, my friend and team-mate. We played together, and he initiated me into what later became my refereeing career, allowing me to reach the Six Nations.”

On the eve of his biggest appointment to date, Piardi also paid tribute to several other colleagues for helping him in his refereeing journey.

“There are different role models that have helped me become a professional referee; among them are Alain Rolland, Steve Walsh, Ben O'Keeffe, and many others. They allowed me to become who I am and helped me grow in all aspects, not only personally and in refereeing but also from a human perspective.”

While on the verge of making history, Piardi hopes that the appointment in Dublin won’t be a one-off and he’ll go on to establish himself amongst the leading officials in world rugby.

“My goal for the year is to officiate the Six Nations match well and establish myself as a referee at this level, aiming for the highest level possible globally.

“I want to prove to myself, first and foremost, but also to others that I can continue to perform at this level and aspire to even more significant matches.”