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Monday, January 09, 2012

England demonstrate art of losing friends and alienating people

The generosity and enthusiasm of Italian rugby clubs who play host to women's internationals is fast becoming legendary. Ireland's trip to Rovigo last year was typical - the Irish team being given the complete red card treatment throughout their visit, with a big enthusiastic crowd making the game a huge and memorable occasion.

This year is is England's turn to visit Italy, and the citizens of Udine in Venice region were over the moon to be given the chance to host the game. All sorts of preparations were being put in place to welcome the English team.


Because England are not coming. You see, Udine is 90km, or about 57 miles (as the crow flies) from Venice airport. And England have pointed out an IRB rule that internationals cannot take place more than 50 miles from an airport.

If you have not heard of this rule then this will be no surprise because, as an Italian RFU spokesman put it, this is "a clause that is almost never required." However "England team was adamant and demanded the move". As a result the game will now take place at Parabiago, near Milan - about 30km from the airport.

To compensate the rugby fans of Udine, the Italian RFU will now move a men's U20 game to the ground, along with games against French or Welsh women's teams next year. Apparently they are okay to travel the extra 7 miles or so.

No doubt England's management will claim that this has saved their players being crammed in a coach for an unnecessary period. However, the total journey time to Udine down the fast, modern Autostrada would have been just over an hour. Instead they will now have to drive across the middle of Milan -journey time (if the roads are clear) at least 50 minutes. I really hope those extra 10-20 minutes saved - if any time is saved (this is Milan after all!) - are worth the upset caused.

It is sometimes said that the law is an ass, but occasionally this metaphor applies to those who insist on its application.

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