FYLDE RFC three-quarter Warren Spragg has taken personal possession of his prized Italian cap – well over six years after playing for his adopted country.
But that was a quick turn-around compared to some of his predecessors in the Italian team – they had to wait all of half-a-century!
It was only this month that the Italian rugby authorities got round to the the task of presenting caps to every player in their rugby history.
Spragg, who won his cap in November, 2006 in an international against Canada, was one of hundreds of players invited to the Stadio Olimpico for the ceremony prior to Italty’s famous win over the French in the Six Nations Championship.
Spragg, who qualified for the country through his Italian grandmother, said: “It was an emotional, special day – there were fellows there who were 70 and 80 years of age who hadn’t seen their old team-mates for 50 years. It was a privilege to be there. The match where I played for Italy was at a ground near Udine, where my granmother is from. My nan is an inspirational person and it was through her that I got to play for Italy.”
Unfortunately, Spragg did not get the chance to witness in full one of the most outstanding results in the history of Italian rugby as they upset the odds to overcome France.
The Fylde man explained: “We had to leave just after half-time because we had a flight back to Stansted to catch. I had to be at work at Myerscough College on Monday – I got back home at 4.30 am and had to be at the college training the lads at 8.30 on the back of two hours’ sleep!
“It was a hectic weekend, but a nice way of rounding off the time I’d had over there in Italy.”
Spragg, who played for club sides Calvisano and Petrarca in Italy, will be an interested observer when the Azzurri face Wales in the Six Nations Championship tomorrow.
Spragg, who joined Fylde at the start of the season, said: “It is going to be difficult for Wales in Rome – they have sold out the next two games, so it will be a pretty intimidating place for the Welsh to go.
“I wouldn’t be surprised with an Italian win. But how many times do people say that, and they ship 40 points!”
On March 13, England play Italy at Twickenham, which is time for Spragg to indulge in some diplomatic fence-sitting. He said: “I haven’t managed to get tickets for that one even with all my connections, so I will have to set on the fence for that and just hope for a good game of rugby, though it would be nice to see them push England close.”
Spragg was grateful to get his cap, but said it was a bitter-sweet feeling because he stuck at one.
“A second would have been better and then a third because in rugby you always want to chase a goal. The older I get, the more appreciative I will get of it.
“In 10, 15 years, I will be able to enjoy it a little bit more.”