After Rome, isn’t Rovigo the most important city in Italy?
“It happens – says Evan Malvato, who with Willie Rovers and Antonio Livero is supervising the much-anticipated show ‘Rugby’. The city of Rovigo in melee ”(promoted by Casa de Risparmio de Padua and the Rovigo Foundation, in Runcal Palace (October 22, 2022 to January 29, 2023) – to travel abroad, and when asked “Where do you come from”, the interlocutor’s eyes light up when he hears the name Rovigo. Especially if you are on vacation in areas where rugby is popular. In fact, it is not the city that is known, but the team. ”
Rugby was certainly a way to make Rovigo internationally known and an important contribution came from the matches played by the Italian national team in the city of Polisine.
Until the emergence of the Six Nations in the 2000s, Rovigo was among the Italian cities that hosted the Azores several times. The first time happened on March 28, 1948 when Italy faced France B in Tri Martiri who won 39-6. But the most important and historical match remains the November 28, 1979 match with Battaglini, who hosted the first official match between Italy and New Zealand. The All Blacks were in our country until a couple of years ago, but to meet them was the president’s fifteenth, the blue national team backed by three foreign players. There was a lot of anticipation for that match and also some anxiety given the strength of the opponent and the fact that Paulisin had been shrouded in thick fog for several days. The All Blacks, led by Graham Morey, were returning from a European tour that saw them beat Scotland and England and it was Rovigo’s last commitment before returning home. For the New Zealand Federation the meeting was informal and in fact they did not specify the “maximum”, while the FIR decided the opposite. Almost surprisingly, on Wednesday, November 28, the fog moved aside to make way for a sunny day. Already an hour before kick-off, the stadium was packed with people with more than 3,500 seats. But outside the gates, there were still many fans waiting to enter. The situation was critical and there was a meeting between the organizers and those in charge of public order about what to do. It was decided that the audience would also be allowed into the game container, as long as both teams agreed. For the Italian delegation it was fine, “No problem,” the New Zealanders said. In an orderly and calm manner, the thousands of spectators who were waiting outside the stadium arranged themselves around the stadium, occupying the old athletics track that once surrounded the stadium. The match was played quite regularly and the behavior of the crowd was great. The All Blacks won 18-12, but a goal by the Azzurri in the final made them suffer a lot. So far, this is still Italy’s best result ever against New Zealand. After some time, a New Zealand senior manager told the FIR board member that in New Zealand they were convinced that Rovigo, after Rome, was among the most important cities in Italy since we played the All Blacks. This can also happen in the rugby world.
There’s also a little Rovigo on the “Rugby Fame Track”, the road to glory. Created by the English parents for the game in 1999 it is a walk along the town of Rugby, which has a population of 70,000 in Warwickshire (England), which is slightly larger than Rovigo. It celebrates the place where the sport was born with 50 bronze plaques, depicting an oval ball, inserted into the street sidewalk. On each one there is the name of a player or event that played a crucial role in the development of the game. The only Italian entered on the path to glory, amidst players from all over the world, among the statues of William Webb Ellis (the legendary inventor of the sport), rugby school (where he was born), and others. Monument to Stefano Pettarello of Rovigo. At the intersection of Regent and Henry Street, near the City Theatre, there is plaque No. 31 in his name. Number 30 by Jaber Williams, the legendary Welsh extreme with bushy whiskers, number 32 for Serge Blanco, one of the greatest French players.
On the ‘Path to Fame’ there are three other big names who have crossed paths with Italian rugby. Australian David Campese, South Africans Nas Botha and Nick Mallett. The latter two played in Rovigo.