Italians came, saw and conquered!!
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!