Six Nations
Italy expect bumper crowd for England clash
ESPNscrum Staff
January 13, 2012
Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Giancarlo Dondi poses at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy, January 12, 2012
FIR president Giancarlo Dondi poses at Rome's Stadio Olimpico that will play host to the clash © Getty Images
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Ticket sales for Italy's Six Nations clash with England at Rome's Stadio Olimpico next month have already exceeded 50,000.

The Azzurri will play two games at the 72,000 capacity home of Serie A football clubs AS Roma and Lazio during this year's battle for northern hemisphere supremacy although concerns about the re-development of their usual Stadio Flaminio home may see that arrangement extended.

Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Giancarlo Dondi revealed at a press conference at the stadium on Thursday that a total of 52,000 tickets have been sold with only 6,500 of those sales coming from overseas. As a result, the fixture is in line to attract twice the number of fans that could have fit into the 32,000 capacity Stadio Flaminio that is just a short walk away.

"I got goosebumps when I saw a great stadium like this with rugby posts," Dondi told AFP. "It's a reward, a step forward to show the great growth of our sport in Italy. Now I hope we can fill this structure which we hope can become our home in the future. We hope to continue in the Olimpico. If we manage to fill it then why should we go backwards?"

The FIR had planned to return to the Flaminio, their home for the past 11 years, following a major upgrade to increase the capacity to 42,000 but work on the stadium has stalled. "As for the Flaminio, the Federation has always wanted its own home and to commit itself economically to increase it," added Dondi. "But then we came across bureaucratic problems and now if you pass by that area you can see that it's been completely abandoned."

Dondi has also played down the northern city of Naples' hopes of playing host to a Test clash between Italy and New Zealand. "Naples has asked to host a Test match against the All Blacks, however we're evaluating it because we can't leave our debut at the San Paolo to chance. Maybe we'll start with a Test match and then based on how many spectators we get we'll see."

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