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