The snow in Rome on Saturday continued to cause problems for everyone, but one benefit was that the usual traffic chaos in the city was put on hold as drivers were advised to stay at home. So when we boarded our coach at 1pm to take us from the hotel to the Stadio Olimpico we hardly had need of the police escort as the journey was barely 20 minutes with clear roads.
The snow was coming down thick and fast which meant we couldn’t have a look around the Olympic complex and went straight into the hospitality suite for lunch. In the suite there were a couple of large flat-screen TVs showing a live feed from the cameras outside and there was a running debate over lunch about the likelihood of the game taking place. As we watched the snow got heavier and thicker we saw our Italian counterparts leaving the room to appear a couple of minutes later on the screen as they looked at the pitch wondering what do to.
At one stage it seemed that the pitch was being watered to get rid of the snow but unsurprisingly that didn’t do any good. As the Italian officials with us and on the pitch began to look more and more worried we started talking about whether a replay would be staged the following week and would we all have to return to Rome. But 90 minutes before kick-off the Italian Secretary came in and announced that the game would go ahead, the lines on the pitch were being painted red and leaf-blowers were being used to to clear as much snow as possible.
As we took our seats I admired the stadium that had been built for the 1964 Olympic games. All 72,000 seats had been sold but between 10,000 and 20,000 Italian supporters from the North couldn’t make the journey as roads and trains were so disrupted. However, as the anthems were played the remaining Italians filled the stadium with a passionate rendition of the Internazionale.
As for the game, I have to admire the character of the England team who, after digging themselves into a very large hole, managed to pull themselves out of it again. It wasn’t a particularly pretty game to watch but England have won two tough away games and although they will be firm underdogs against Wales in a fortnight, they will grow further as a team during the match.
After the final whistle we left straight for the hotel to change into black tie for the players dinner at the magnificent Villa Miani. Apparently you can rent it out if you fancy going somewhere for a summer break, as long as you can find €150,000 per week. You could see from the tired faces of both sets of players how hard a game it had been, and Sergio Parisse was limping quite badly as he walked to the podium to speak.
It was a big moment for Rob Webber as he was presented with his England cap as was Joe Simpson who played in the Rugby World Cup but only got his cap at this dinner being the first opportunity to do so. Then with formalities done we boarded our coaches to return once again to our hotel.
Sunday saw the sun shine as you would expect it to in Rome and it was perfect weather for sightseeing. There was still little traffic in the city and the police had closed the road that connected the huge Victor Emanuel monument with the Coliseum, so we spent a happy hour looking at the ruins of the Forum before taking the Metro back and head for the airport.
Since Italy joined the Six Nations, all rugby supporters have looked forward to the trip to Rome, and although the snow made things tricky, the weekend was as sociable as ever. Even in the departure lounge I chatted to people from Cantabs, Haverhill, Woodbridge and Ipswich.
If you have the chance to visit the Eternal City, take it with both hands.
Related Post: Pre-match letter from Rome – snow in the Eternal City