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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 10:57 GMT
Rugby fans: When in Rome

Try as you might, Romans remain uninterested in rugby

With the entry of the Italian team, rugby's Five Nations Championship is no more. However, far from eroding the tournament's unique character, the move has given English and Scottish fans the perfect excuse for a Roman holiday.

Rugby's away supporters have long been spoiled for venues. The old championship had a fixture list sounding like the blurb on a posh shopping bag - London, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cardiff.

Six Nations Championship
Now the thousands who follow their national side to foreign climes have a chance to get a fleeting glimpse of the Eternal City - Rome.

Some 8,500 Scots are thought to be making the trip for this weekend's match against the Azzurri.

There's massive indifference to rugby in Rome
Rory Carroll
If they're expecting a city gripped by rugby fever, they will be disappointed reckons The Guardian's man on the spot Rory Carroll.

"There's massive indifference to rugby in Rome, though that might change by the weekend," says Carroll.

Though the game is increasingly popular in the north, Rome remains a football town.

"Ask the average taxi driver and chances are he hasn't even heard there's an international match on. He'll have his mind firmly on Sunday's big soccer game."

Italian police 'Rugby, what's that?'
Carroll says that even though the Six Nations games are being played at the relatively small Stadio Flaminio, demand for the 25,000 tickets has been low.

Fans used to the pre-match build-up around Murrayfield or Twickenham will be hard-pressed to find anyone outside Rome's British theme pubs even remotely interested in rugby.

Even the city's authorities seem uninterested in the event, according to Carroll.

Far from bracing themselves to save the city from a sacking at the hands of rugger fans, the police remain nonchalant.

"Rome's police, although very visible on the streets, tend to be quite relaxed," says Carroll.

EastEnders' Ricky and Bianca on wheels 'Crash helmets? Not in my stadium!'
"There doesn't tend to be much violence at Italian sporting events and they aren't too worried about a mere 8,000 fans - not compared to the floods of people who visit Rome everyday."

Alcohol has been banned from the stadium. So too have crash helmets, for those considering hiring a scooter for the weekend.

Rome's head of police has also let it be known that covering "one's face with a handkerchief or scarf" is also forbidden.

This may cause problems should Scotland or England put in a tearjerkingly bad performance and go down to the Italian underdogs.

The Scottish Rugby Union has also suggested the traditional sgain-dhus daggers placed in the sock should not be worn in public.

It seems what you do in private with sgain-dhus, or with stilettos for that matter, is your own business.

Trevi Fountain: Don't take a Roman bath
Frascati-fuelled victory celebrations or post-match wakes will also be monitored. Romans are none too keen to see the statues and monuments of their historic city scaled by rowdy rugger fans.

Those contemplating following Anita Ekberg's lead from the film La Dolca Vita by taking a victory dip in the famous Trevi Fountain be warned.

Throwing coins in the water is supposed to ensure your return to the city - throwing yourself in will ensure you'll remain in Rome longer than you'd anticipated, courtesy of the Caribinieri.

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