Italians in new threat to move to Florence

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THE Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) is again threatening to shift international matches away from Rome in an effort to prise more government support for facilities.

FIR president Giancarlo Dondi has been fighting for years for investment in the national stadium in Rome, Stadio Flaminio, with little success.

The country has a host of great stadia and have bigger rugby supports in the north, but a condition of their entry to the RBS Six Nations Championship in 2000 was that they follow the existing nations and play their tournament matches in the capital city.

After recording their first win over great rivals France last month, Italy are again pushing for more government support to improve Stadio Flaminio and insisted that if it is not now forthcoming then they will shift games to Florence.

An FIR statement read: "The Italian rugby federation board has decided home matches in the Six Nations will be transferred to the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence in the absence of a definitive and rapid resolution of the problems with the Stadio Flaminio."

However, sources close to the FIR have told The Scotsman that this decision is not final and that it is hoped the threat alone will bring support for their plans to improve the Rome stadium.

The FIR did try to move the 2009 autumn international with South Africa to Florence, but had to make a late switch to Udine when Fiorentina insisted on playing a Serie A football match on the same day in the same stadium.

Italy sold out the 80,000-seater San Siro in Milan for a New Zealand Test that year, but because soccer sides AC Milan and Internazionale use the venue almost every weekend during the season, that is not a possibility for the spring tournament.

The SRU insisted they would make no comment at this stage and the Six Nations said they were also monitoring the situation and believe that confirmation of any change would be forthcoming before the end of this month.

No moves out of Rome are currently expected despite the FIR statement.

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