Video: Azzurri are gunning for maiden Irish scalp, insists Castrogiovanni
Published 25/02/2012 | 05:00
Ireland's Geordan Murphy and Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni should have been looking forward to combat in Lansdowne Road today. Instead, all they can do is exchange insults at each other.
"He understands nothing about cooking!" spits the wildly hirsute Latin. "This is an Irishman. When it comes to food, the only thing he knows is the Guinness and potatoes."
Murphy's normally ruffled image becomes suddenly unruffled. "He's so easy to wind up," he spouts. "He gets angry so easily and holds grudges for absolutely no reason!"
Just as well they're not playing today, then, you may suspect. Except nothing could be the further from the truth.
Murphy and Castrogiovanni are club colleagues, best mates off the field and co-investors in three bistros, including the famed Timo, close to their Leicester Tigers HQ.
"Look, he's getting to be an old man so this is a good way of helping him out in his retirement, you know," laughs Castrogiovanni.
"Being Irish, I have to work behind the bar," Murphy admits sheepishly. "I'm supposed to be the only one who knows about drink. He fancies himself as the real Italian cook and wants to stay in the kitchen all the time."
They'd prefer to be on the field today and we'd have preferred to have sat down with them this week but best-laid plans and all that; firstly, Murphy told this newspaper a few weeks back that he wouldn't be making himself available for Ireland during this Six Nations.
And then, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Castrogiovanni busted his ribs against England. Suddenly, two pillars of experience -- Murphy (33 and 74 caps), Castrogiovanni (30 and 84 caps) -- were withdrawn from today's combat.
"He's really disappointed to be injured but knowing him, he'll be harbouring hopes of making it back for the final game," says Murphy. "They told him six weeks but he'll be back, don't worry."
After his injury agony a fortnight ago, Argentina-born Castro fled to the port town of Parana, just south of Buenos Aires, where he first took up rugby, but only after punching a referee to free himself from his mother's desire that he play basketball, rather than the oval ball game.
He is here on television duty, still believing that his adopted country -- he switched allegiances when he was 19 after joining Calvisano -- can shake up the Six Nations.
"Before the Six Nations starts, it is difficult to ensure you start well," he says. "I think they're gunning for an Irish scalp. They're acutely aware that they've managed to beat nearly everyone except England and Ireland."
Whatever the result, the pair will remain best of friends.