NINE years on from the first of his 54 test appearances, Newcastle Falcons lock Carlo del Fava has finally been presented with his Italian international cap.
The 31-year-old was in Rome last weekend to witness the Azzurri’s remarkable Six Nations victory over France.
He was presented to the fans on the field before kick-off and formed part of an illustrious band of players going as far back as the 1920s.
Del Fava explained: “Italy, unlike most rugby-playing countries, have never had a tradition of presenting their players with an international cap.
“They are looking to rectify that now, and so last weekend they invited every player from cap number one right up to the current 670-odd to attend a reception where they would be presented with a cap bearing their particular number.
“It is great Italy are finally embracing the custom and just over 400 of us were able to come and take part in the ceremony, which was held in a building next to the Stadio Olimpico.
“We went up one by one to receive our caps and from there we were paraded on to the field before the France game.
“We were given a wonderful reception by the fans, we were pitch-side when the anthems were being sung and it was a special day.”
Swapping tales with Italian stars from generation to generation, the ex-Ulster, Bourgoin and Aironi lock added: “It was basically a family reunion and you are mates for life once you have stood side by side with a guy on a rugby field.
“My cap is number 559 and even the guys who led the way in the very first international against Spain in 1923 were represented by their grand-children or even great great grand-children in some cases.”
Boasting an Italian name but talking in South African tones, Del Fava explained: “My father is Italian and even though we grew up in South Africa all my cousins, uncles and aunties still live in the Tuscan village of Luca.
“I love getting back there whenever I can, and doing it on the day we beat France made it extra-special.”
Watching the Azzurri upset the odds in a 23-18 triumph, he said: “The boys played really well.
“It was mature, disciplined, composed rugby, and the things that stood out for me were their distribution and ball-presentation.
“The forwards never got tired because the distribution was so good hey could share the workload between them.
“The way the ball was presented meant the scrum-half could just flick it out as quick as he wanted and keep the French constantly under pressure.
“On top of that, the amount of offloads they were able to get away kept the defenders guessing, and some unreal exit plays cleared the danger.” I
Italy were installed as pre-tournament wooden spoon favourites prior to Sunday’s shock result, and the lock-forward said: “With being the newest team into the Six Nations there are going to be questions from time to time about what Italy add and all the rest of it, but we saw last weekend the work they have done. Jacques Brunel as the head coach has streamlined the staff, put very clear ideas into place and as a player that is exactly what you need.”
Faced with a tough assignment against Scotland on Saturday, Del Fava is expecting an attritional battle, adding: “Beating the Scots up there would be something special, but they are a different animal at Murrayfield.
“It will be a very difficult game up there and even if Scotland make a few mistakes in terms of their structure they are headstrong and tenacious.
“They will fight until they have nothing left, but if you can ride that pressure and put your own things in place before them then you have a chance.”