Trio return to bolster Azzurri ranks
March 12, 2007
An already-buoyant Italy have been further boosted with the arrival of three more players to prepare for their season-ending RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland.
Centre Matteo Barbini, hooker Fabio Ongaro and back row forward Josh Sole have joined the 24 men on duty for Saturday's historic, if controversial, 23-20 win over Wales at the Stadio Flaminio.
The victory at Italy's modest Roman home came hot on the heels of the Azzurri's first ever Six Nations away win, a 37-17 triumph against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Mauro Bergamasco, who scored tries against both Scotland and Wales, has been an emblematic figure as the country starts to warm to the oval ball game.
``It's a dream,'' said Bergamasco, whose brother Mirco also plays for the Azzurri, following in the footsteps of their father Arturo, who starred in the 1970s.
``We believed right until the end and we have achieved what we deserved.
``We gave absolutely everything we had from the first minute right through to the last.''
Wales may have been angry at the controversial ending when they kicked for touch instead of for a potentially game-tying penalty after getting their wires crossed with referee Chris White, who has apologised for the breakdown in communication.
But Italian rugby is suddenly becoming all the rage, with the sport's reputation for good crowd behaviour and respect between teams off the field attracting many spectators disillusioned with the endless scandals surrounding the country's number one sport, football.
Alessandro Zanni was delighted with the fans at the Stadio Flaminio, whose capacity of 24,591 may be soon considered inadequate if rugby continues its growth.
``We are delighted and we got the result we wanted even when things looked bad for us,'' Zanni told www.gazzetta.it.
``We gave everything to turn it around in front of our marvellous supporters and we were rewarded. Every member of the team deserves praise.''
Regardless of the outcome of the final match with Ireland, Italy will be able to look back at their 2007 campaign as their best ever since joining the former Five Nations back in 2000.
Prop Andrea Lo Cicero is adamant that the Azzurri will not rest on their laurels.
Lo Cicero, who hails from the Sicilian town of Catania, said: ``We have had two memorable victories but now we must turn our attention to the Ireland match.''
Back Gonzalo Canale has muscle problems in his left leg and further medical tests will be necessary before coach Pierre Berbizier knows if he can count onhim next Saturday at the Flaminio.
Tomorrow will see the now 27-man squad trimmed back to 24 again.