Rugby Union
Lions set to be big in Italy

By Jamie Arrowsmith 06/02 Updated: 08/02 11:23

RUGBY Lions are playing their part in promoting rugby in Italy this weekend ahead of England's trip to the Stadio Olimpico in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday.

Peroni, the official sponsor of the Italian national team, want to promote the spirit of rugby and broaden its appeal and therefore have focused on the town that gave birth to the game with Italian television crews and journalists visiting Rugby before Lions send a 40-strong delegation out to Rovigo for a four-day visit, funded by Peroni.

Lions' delegation will include former England internationals Steve Brain and Stan Purdy plus current members of the first team squad who are coached by Neil Back, a Rugby World Cup winner with England in 2003.

The Italian media scheduled to visit Rugby includes television stations Sky Italia and the free-to-air Rai Sport Italia along with newspapers La Gazzetto dello Sport and the high-brow daily Corriere della Sera.

“It is quite a coup to get such coverage from the La Gazzetto dello Sport because they normally have 30-odd pages of football and a couple of column inches on rugby," said Rugby captain and England Sevens international Andy Vilk, a fluent Italian speaker from his time as a player with Benetton Treviso.

"They are obviously taking it very seriously and have got everybody on board that needs to be onboard.”

Rovigo has been chosen as Lions’ base because of its love for the oval ball game and the fact that the town’s rugby club will host the u20 international between Italy and England tomorrow night.

“Rovigo has the most passionate fans in Italy; they used to get big crowds and it was always intimidating place to go to as an opposition player,” added Vilk, who returned to the UK this summer.

Lions' party will then move on to Rome for the main event where their presence amongst the expected 80,000 crowd will be acknowledged by an on-pitch presentation immediately before kick-off.

“It should be a cracking trip and it opens up all sorts of possibilities - for the town and the club. I think it could be huge in terms of putting Rugby on the international map,” added Vilk.

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