Sunday 19 November 2017

All roads lead to Rome for legions of Irish rugby fans

Ireland supporters Patricia Adams (left) and Rose Lyng with a 'Roman Gladiator' in front of the Colosseum in Rome
Ireland supporters Patricia Adams (left) and Rose Lyng with a 'Roman Gladiator' in front of the Colosseum in Rome

Brian Byrne

They're in Rome, but they won't be doing as the Romans do.

Thousands of Irish fans have flocked to the Italian capital in support of the players, who are preparing for their opening Six Nations clash Italy today.

Elaine Doyle from Milltown in Dublin, who travelled as part of a group of 10 female rugby fanatics, said the match was an "excuse to combine the city and the rugby".

She said: "We're big rugby fans. It's not our first time, we've gone to a few but this is our second time going to Rome.

"It's the nicest city, and it means the matches Ireland play here always feel the most special.

"We're staying for the weekend, and we have friends coming from London, so after the match we'll be doing a bit of a sightseeing. It's an excuse to combine the city and the rugby."

However, not everyone flying out from Dublin Airport yesterday called themselves a "fan".

Neil Smyth (31), from Bettystown in Co Meath, insisted his mates wouldn't convert him to the sport as he prepared to attend his first ever match.

"I don't like rugby. I've a mate in Rome, and was going over anyway to visit him, but it turns out the boys are going over too for the match.

"I have a ticket. But they definitely won't convert me. It's not my game. My game is soccer or American football."

His friend Collie Scanlan (32) gave a blow-by-blow account of how he thinks the match will go down.

"This is my first ever away game for the Six Nations, so I can't wait. "It'll be a close first 40 minutes, but Ireland will just open up on them in the second half. I'd say we'll score about four tries in the second half.

"I think Simon Zebo will get a hat-trick. I'm just going on my gut there.

"I'm not betting, but I'd say there will be a 20-point spread, if you were gambling."

Ex-Munster ace Alan Quinlan has said that Ireland should have no problem beating Italy.

The Tipperary man said: "We beat them on paper, and we have been on a good run of form. We go into the tournament as one of the favourites."

Spokesman from the Irish Rugby and Football Union (IRFU) David O' Siochain said Rome was "packed" with Irish people last night.

"You can't swing a cat without hitting an Irish person here this weekend.

"There's thousands of people with different accents roaming the streets here, and they're all Irish."

Meanwhile, the women's team began their own Six Nations campaign in style last night when they trounced Italy 30-5 in Florence.

Irish Independent

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