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Junior News    

The Italians came, saw and conquered!!

See Photographs in the GALLERY























“Lo Spirito di Rugby!”

The weekend of the Spring Bank Holiday saw a first for Brecon RFC insomuch as it heralded the first visit to the club of a touring Italian team. As regular visitors to the Brecon RFC web site chat will know, the visitors arrived from the town of Belluno, in the Dolomite region of Northern Italy. These northern areas of Italy are commonly identified as being the rugby strongholds of the rapidly developing rugby fraternity within the country.

The Bellunesi arrived with high hopes of impressing their hosts, and, as shown on reports on their own club website, they saw it as a visit to a country they feel has single mindedly embraced the game and, more than any other, has seen it develop as an integral part of the country’s culture. The visitors were keen to sample the culture of the Gallesi , and also to meet new people, make new friends, and see how others embrace what is seen as one of the main tenets of the game, namely ‘lo spirito di rugby’.

After a short flight from Venice, where other passengers commented on the exemplary behaviour of the young Italians, the tour bus rolled into Brecon, into the main car park opposite Cwrt Gwenllian Morgan, in the early, early hours (1.30am) of Friday, where they were greeted by their hosting families, including children who had gamely kept themselves awake and vertical! (Nothing to do with trying to wangle a school-day lie-in as some said?!). The Italian adults were, in the main, being housed in the Borderers Guest House, and Paris Guest House, on The Watton, so, after a short walk, where they were made aware of the location of the Brecon RFC Clubhouse and the impending parties, they were able to quickly get their heads down and look forward to the fun ahead!

Friday saw the adults touring town, taking in the sights, and getting to know the surrounds better. Whilst this was happening, the Italian children were dragging themselves out of their unfamiliar beds and tasting the delights of full Welsh breakfasts and ‘bacon butties’. There then followed a visit to the High School, where they were greeted by the Head Teacher, Ingrid Gallagher, and were able to attend lessons with their host children.

The adults meanwhile had convened at the Tipple’n’Tiffin in Theatr Aberhonddu , where Richard and Louise put on a great spread of many courses, many different dishes and tastes, and the Italians heartily broke the fine breads with their hosts.

The afternoon saw some of the adults, the coach and team officials, attend the High School where the players, Welsh and Italian, were being put through their paces by Jon Watkins, the PE Teacher. Following drills and lessons, a practice match was arranged against a combination of Year 7 & 8 boys, which gave the visitors the opportunity to further acquaint themselves with the laws under which they would be playing on the following day in the triangular tournament at Parc de Pugh. The game ended with the High School ahead on points/tries scored, although the Italians gave notice of what was to come with some strong running and physical play.

The evening saw all visiting the Brecon Clubhouse for the annual Min/Junior Tournament, and the visitors were warmly welcomed to join in the fun. The evening, as ever, was special for all the players involved, although this year had the added bonus of the visit of Jamie Roberts, the Blues, Wales, and Lions player. Everybody at the club was ‘blown away’ by the magnificent attitude of Jamie, and he showed himself to be an absolute gent! He made time for all players, signed scores of items of clothing and posed for hundreds of photos, never once failing to wipe a genuine smile of his face.

The Italian visitors were also the beneficiaries of Jamie’s time and efforts, and they were truly taken aback by the availability and accessibility of this rugby star, and also his generosità and gentilezza! The tastes of the club ales also helped and these were sampled liberally by all!

Following the fine weather on Friday, Saturday dawned with the sun still shining, and the crowds flocked to Parc de Pugh to watch the international festival take place. Builth Under 12s were also welcome visitors, and Arwyn Williams and his team played a huge part in the fun and success of the day.

The rugby played was a pleasure to watch, from all three teams, and the spirit in which it was played was a huge example to all who spectated, old and young! The Italian players, who encompassed the Welsh equivalent of Years 6,7 & 8, were ultimately too powerful for the Welsh teams, and the size of their touring squad enabled them to rotate their players to ensure that all had significant game time. The power was added to strength and, particularly, some impressive pace from some of their players, and this proved decisive in them winning both their games. Both Brecon and Builth played with great heart and courage against some bigger boys, and they can be very proud of their efforts

Following the rugby, all retired to the clubhouse to enjoy the atmosphere and friendship, and the evening evolved to be a great success. The clubhouse was ‘bouncing’ given that Brecon Youth had successfully played a game (winning comfortably by 50+ points), whilst the Under 10s played out a hard fought draw against the visiting Penarth, in what was one of the best games of their season!

Given the numbers at the clubhouse, the food laid on by ‘Coot’ and his gang was magnificent, and there was enough to feed the scores/hundreds who ate! Our Italian guests were seen to ‘fill their boots’ on the curry provided, whilst also enjoying the huge spread of breads, pates, cheeses, salads, pastas and pickles provided by the families of the Brecon players. Allied to that, Toni, Renzo, Lorenzo, Gianni, and the rest of the Bellunesi continued their enjoyment of the ‘red’ beers (bitters, creamflows etc) being served.

There were a number of presentations made, primarily to the players who had all contributed to a hugely enjoyable afternoon of rugby, and also to the visiting coach Toni Palma, and a few of his colleagues. This part of the evening was presided over by Ron Rowsell, Club Rugby Chairman, ably assisted by the translation skills of Nia Morris, through whom the connection with Belluno has been made. Nia is a former Brecon girl, being the daughter of former Neath and Brecon player Keith Morris, and former Brecon High School teacher Jenny, who has made her home in the fantastic setting of Belluno, and her son Davide, was one of the competing players.

One of the main awards was made to a player who had typified the athletic, powerful and pacey play of the Belluno team, with the Player of the Tournament award going to the Italian threequarter Federico Sacchet.
The evening was made by the arrival of the Aberhonddu Male Voice Choir, and local mezzo soprano, Helen Davies. Taking a lead, the Italian party gave voice to some of their favoured tunes and the room was soon swaying to the sounds of ‘Calon Lan’ and ‘Bella Ciao’, In addition the obligatory rendition of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was matched by the Belluno players getting up on stage and giving a rousing version of their own anthem, "L'Inno di Mameli"

The singing, and eating and drinking, continued late in to the evening, with the participants all showing varying degrees of being tired and emotional! It ultimately finished with all having agreed that the whole day had been a huge success, and very much an experience worth repeating.
Sunday morning saw the Bellunesi packing to leave, with the players hastily popping into town to find any open shops to buy gifts for families back home. They were eventually picked up by the Tour Bus at 1.30 to catch the tea time flight homeward from Bristol Airport

Before leaving they took the time to thanks the generosity of their hosts, and the warm welcome that they received from all. Having returned, and since reported back, they have reiterated their thoughts that the tour was a wonderful experience and opportunity. They have stated that they were overwhelmed by the welcome and were also hugely impressed by the area, the town, and the warmth of the people they met.

Whilst the warm weather contributed to the success of the weekend, I think all involved can take a huge pat on the backs for the efforts made, and for the contributions made by all. Thanks go to the Brecon RFC (particularly the bar staff), Williams Coaches, Brecon High School (particularly Jon Watkins), the Tipple’n’Tiffin, Aberhonddu Male Voice Choir, Borderers & Paris and Coach House guest houses, Builth RFC, Ron Rowsell, all the mums and dads who hosted and welcomed the Italian players, and, most importantly, the players themselves (apologies if any forgotten here?!).

The plan now is for the Brecon contingent to meet soon , and start coordinating a return tour to Belluno. The Bellunesi have outlined their huge enthusiasm to return the generosity and warmth received, and also for the Brecon youngsters to gain the positive experience that their own players benefitted from with their recent visit.

The final word goes to the Italian Coach Toni Palma who, in addition to leading the Italian singing in the bar, was massively taken with the whole cultural experience, and stated that ‘lo spirito di rugby’ is alive and kicking!

11th May 2008 U15s v Merthyr - Heart of Wales Cup Final Brecon RFC 18– Merthyr RFC 19. Click here for Match Report
11th May 2008 U13s v Aberdare - Heart of Wales Cup Final Brecon RFC 5 – Aberdare RFC 20. Click here for Match Report















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