Eternal hope in the eternal city

Wales travel to the beautiful city of Rome as they face Italy in the next instalment of the Six Nations. Despite two defeats in their opening two fixtures of the 2011 edition of the competition, you can guarantee that the Roman crowd will be as enthusiastic as ever in their support for the Azzurri.
Having spent a period of time living in Rome myself, I have been fortunate to have first-hand experience of the wonderful atmosphere inside the Stadio Flaminio in the Italian capital city. I’ve attended half a dozen matches at the stadium and each time, the atmosphere seems to get better and better.
Italy play the role of the underdogs in the championship. They’re the younger brother of the tournament as the least experienced, and have often collected the proverbial wooden spoon for finishing bottom of the standings.
Despite all of this, the Italian crowd are always so enthusiastic. The Flaminio is quite an open arena but when the Italians start cheering their side, thankfully the sound is not lost into the open air. It’s a colourful crowd, with the colour of choice being blue to match the team’s playing strip, and you’d be hard pushed to find a noisier and more passionate set of fans in world rugby.
And the fans and the atmosphere generated in Rome does have its role to play. The Italian side rise to the occasion in their home fixtures, and the support from the stands seems to lift their performance a good 10 or 20 percent. The Flaminio has certainly become an intimidating place to go, and Wales will have to be very careful not to slip up this weekend.
With each passing year, Italy are becoming ever more experienced and, although results don’t appear to reflect it this season, they’re improving as a team year on year. Their forward pack is particularly strong, it’s perhaps in the back line that they struggle somewhat with the age-old problem of not having a consistent place kicker. Since Diego Dominguez retired, Italy must have tried more than their fair share of player taking place kicks and are still yet to find one who can consistently convert penalties into points with the boot.
On paper, the weekend’s clash is a one-sided affair and Wales should bring the points home with them. All the star names appear on the Welsh team sheet with the likes of Shane Williams, James Hook and Ryan Jones. But, in Rome, you simply cannot write off Italy. You cannot help but be inspired by the passion of the Italian fans, and that makes Italy a dangerous obstacle on home territory.
To all the Wales fans going over for the game, I can only say that I’m extremely jealous. No matter what the outcome of the game is, you will enjoy yourselves, I can guarantee it.

Paul Harper
For more from Paul log on to his blog


Post a Comment