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Friday, April 12, 2024
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From the Touchline – singing school kids, flash mobs and ref reunions

World Rugby gathers some of the best off-field tales from Rugby World Cup 2023.
”I’m proud of it, I’m an Italian’ – French school kids sing to the Azzurri
Rugby World Cups create special, and occasionally very surprising memories. None of the current Italy squad can ever recall being cheered on by a French crowd but on Tuesday, not only did hundreds of their fiercest rugby rivals acclaim every move of their open training session, they also serenaded them throughout with enthusiastic renditions of a hit 1980s Italian pop song.

“That was very funny,” Giovanni Pettinelli said in Bourgoin-Jallieu after listening to legions of school kids blast out ‘L’Italiano’, by Toto Cutugno, throughout the 90 minutes.  “It was really noisy, like being in a stadium, like another training session for us so really useful too,” the flanker added.

The song has become a second anthem for the Azzurri, a fact clearly not lost on the schools around Italy’s tournament base. With lyrics like “let me sing because I’m proud of it, I’m an Italian, a real Italian”, perhaps the team will have more support than they are expecting when they face the tournament hosts in nearby Lyon on 6 October.

Flash, ah-ah!

Thought the art of a flash mob was long gone? Think again! Wales fans organised one to take place in Bordeaux before the team played Fiji on Sunday.

It was the idea of a Cardiff-based choir who spread the word and received a great response from other choirs. Nation.Cymru reported Welsh songs such as Calon Lân, Hymns and Arias, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, and Yma o Hyd were included.

After the flash mob’s success, the group are planning to do the same at the three other locations for Wales’ remaining pool games in Nice, Lyon and Nantes.

Working with an idol

In 2007 referee Wayne Barnes took charge of Ireland v Georgia at the last Rugby World Cup in France. Watching the match in Tbilisi was 12-year-old Nika Amashukeli and it was one of the first rugby games he had seen.

Amashukeli was inspired to become a referee and 13 years after watching Barnes officiate, the pair worked together on Scotland v France in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.

The Georgian official took charge of his first Rugby World Cup match on Saturday as the referee for Ireland v Romania. Rather poetically, Barnes was one of Amashukeli’s assistant referees for the match. Barnes tweeted and said: “How good is it that I get to run touch for him today in Rugby World Cup?”

Painted name

In 2015, Tonga’s Sonatane Takalua played in his first 15s Rugby World Cup after representing the country at the sevens RWC in 2013.

Fans in the village where he was born, Lapaha, painted his name on cars and buildings to show their support for the scrum-half.

The captain was asked in a media briefing on Tuesday, before Tonga take on Ireland on Saturday, if his village still commemorate him with painting. He said: “Now the feeling is coming back [RWC buzz], all the supporters all over the world think they are getting warm now it’s getting closer to our first match. I think they are still doing that.”

Coles and Hansen ‘kiss and make-up’ after ‘Wallaby-gate’

The air crackled with tension. The rest of the New Zealand squad craned their heads to surreptitiously get a glimpse of two of the big beasts of All Blacks rugby butting heads. Just weeks after telling the world’s media he was “gobsmacked” by former double Rugby World Cup-winning coach Steve Hansen giving his insights to arch rivals Australia, hooker Dane Coles was coming face-to-face with the man commonly known as ‘Big Bear’…

“We did (kiss and make-up), had a bit of a hug. I won’t say what he said to me,” Coles revealed with a booming laugh on Tuesday.

“He gave me a bit of stick yesterday for causing a bit of a scene. But no, it’s good. It’s funny what can change in the past couple of weeks. He got up and had a bit of a yarn and all that little bit of, I suppose, hard feelings has been put to bed.”

Hansen has spent several days with the All Blacks at their training base in Lyon, enough perhaps to persuade New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to re-issue his citizenship, having previously joked he would have to remove it after Hansen’s dalliance with the Wallabies.

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