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la dolce vita as fans fly out for 'special' game

It's La Dolce Vita for rugby fans in bella Roma for today's Six Nations opener against Italy.

Elaine Doyle (right) 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".

"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," she said.

"It's the nicest city, and it means the matches Ireland plays 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 sightseeing. It's an excuse to combine the city and the rugby."

However, not everyone flying out from Dublin Airport yesterday considered 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," he added.

With Ireland the clear favourites to lift the Six Nations trophy, former rugby player Alan Quinlan said Ireland should have no problem beating the Italians for their first match.

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

"But that means they can't fly under the radar, and that brings it own pressures. It could leave them as sitting ducks for some teams," he warned.