Car­wyn James tour was the pin­na­cle of Ital­ian rugby team’s visit

Llanelli Star - - NEWS -

THE late, great Car­wyn James would have been so proud.

Ital­ian rugby team Gri­foni Oderzo Rugby’s visit to Llanelli (pre­viewed in last week’s Star) was the pin­na­cle of their Car­wyn James Tour.

The club brought 49 peo­ple over from Oderzo, near Tre­viso, in or­der to see for them­selves where Car­wyn James lived and coached.

They vis­ited Parc y Scar­lets, had lunch in Al­talia, Llanelli, and played two matches in Car­wyn’s home vil­lage, Cefnei­thin, be­fore en­joy­ing good old-fash­ioned Welsh hos­pi­tal­ity in Cefnei­thin RFC Club­house.

“This trip has been very im­por­tant for us and will have a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence for years to come,” said An­drea Barat­tin, for­mer Ital­ian rugby in­ter­na­tional and Gri­foni pres­i­dent.

“As a club, we know what Car­wyn James achieved in the game of rugby world­wide. We also are more than aware of what he did for Ital­ian rugby as a whole when he coached in Rovigo for two years. We wanted our play­ers to see Car­wyn’s world for them­selves so that they could un­der­stand his legacy bet­ter.”

Gri­foni brought two teams over, the un­der-18s and the first XV. But even though they are the first XV, their av­er­age age was 22.

De­spite their youth, they knew full-well who their sur­prise guest was in the Car­wyn James Lounge at Parc y Scar­lets.

Bri­tish Lions and Wales and Scar­lets leg­end Phil Ben­nett needed no in­tro­duc­tion – and they were awe-struck as he shared his sto­ries of Car­wyn with the vis­i­tors.

Later, Phil com­mented on the Ital­ian’s visit: “It was very en­cour­ag­ing to see the en­thu­si­asm of these young Ital­ians and their strong de­sire to know more about Car­wyn. It was good to see that Car­wyn hasn’t been for­got­ten in Italy and it says a lot that they wanted to come all this way in his name.”

In prepa­ra­tion for their games in Cefnei­thin, the group took full ad­van­tage of their visit to Parc y Scar­lets and used the home dress­ing room for a very im­por­tant rugby rit­ual.

“We were de­lighted that we were al­lowed to visit the dress­ing rooms of such a sa­cred team,” explained An­drea Barat­tin.

“And, when we re­alised we could, we de­cided to ask the cap­tains of both teams to present the shirts for the evening to their play­ers. I can­not say how spe­cial that was. To­tally unique!”

The group were greeted in Al­talia res­tau­rant by the chair of Llanelli Ru­ral Coun­cil, coun­cil­lor Sian Ca­iach.

The matches in Cefnei­thin ended one a-piece. Cefnei­thin Firsts 38 Gri­foni Oderzo 21. Cefnei­thin Un­der-18 22 Gri­foni Oderzo 24.

Cefnei­thin RFC did their vis­i­tors proud with tra­di­tional cawl wait­ing for them af­ter the game.

This visit is seen by Gri­foni as the be­gin­ning of es­tab­lish­ing a con­nec­tion be­tween Italy and Wales in the name of Car­wyn James.

An­drea Barat­tin added: “That con­nec­tion, how­ever, must not only be on the rugby pitch. Car­wyn was a man of cul­ture and the links that we shall work on now that we have been in Wales will in­clude cul­ture as well as rugby.” Alun Gib­bard, au­thor of the bilin­gual bi­og­ra­phy of Car­wyn James, Into The Wind

Ital­ian rugby play­ers from Gri­foni Oderzo Rugby dur­ing their visit to Llanelli.

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