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British vs Italian Rugby

Nicolo Felici Nicolo

Playing rugby and being Italian, my approach to sport at Northumbria has been more than a little exciting to me.

First of all, there’s a relevant difference in the entire organisational structure, and the seriousness with which sport in general is managed and carried on here is just on another level. I remember how on my very first day here I entered Sport Central and was stunned by the Sport Fair the university managed to set up, meant to welcome those interested to join trials for as many sports as I wished. It was just the kind of uni event I only had saw in movies.

Over 100 sport clubs and teams gathered subscriptions to their trials from crowds of students and explained everything from membership details to their training programs. Never in my country universities promoted such an event, not of this relevance and dimension at least.


As if this wasn’t enough, it is just at the rugby union trial, the week after, that I realised how much of a thing this amazing sport is here in its England, and here comes the second point. I come from a country where rugby is an underrated. It has been growing (at a slow pace), but still it struggles to gain traction among the youths, and those who start playing it at a young age very often give up later on, as the entire system lacks of proper structures, facilitation, and motivational triggers in general. More importantly, both public and private universities don’t promote any kind of sport activity and so everyone plays for their own team; playing for your uni-team, in Italy, is not even a thing, and this regards every sport, including our beloved football.

At the rugby union trial instead, I believe something around 50 students showed up to prove themselves and gain a position in the team. Bullocksteads, arguably the largest rugby facility I’ve ever seen (I’ve been playing in Italy for six years, visiting dozens of facilities all over the country, all the way up to the north where rugby is way more popular, developed and well managed, and never saw such a facility) hosted a short training session followed by a full game in which everyone had the chance to take part. As expected, the quality standards among most of the students reflected the above-mentioned background system and the deeply-rooted British rugby culture, which basically means that I struggled to keep up with their pace for more than 20 minutes. Quality of the game was (and still is) just well above what I was used to.

Nevertheless, I got to join the social club and so met some amazing lads. In fact those who couldn’t make it to the Team Northumbria, or spontaneously didn’t join it, formed a further team which runs one or two training sessions per week, and supported once again by the university sport branch, takes part in a smaller tournament with surrounding universities. Besides, on Wednesdays the team gathers for a social night, which is where its name comes from.

Socials in general represent another aspect of sport, or any other mutual interest between students, that aren’t common in Italy. I really appreciate such initiatives as they strengthen the group and sort of represent the post match party: nothing more than a night out with your team gives you the chance to come back if you’ve played poorly in the pitch! Anyway, societies are somehow not a thing where I come from, and I don’t think I’m wrong if I say many Italians tend to associate them to American universities’ fraternities and sororities, despite they have nothing to do with them.

Furthermore, I get to play in both friendly and league games with another one of the many local teams; there are probably more teams around here than in the whole Central Italy, which is one of the best aspects of playing a sport in its motherland!

Here in Northumbria there will be a team waiting for you for nearly whatever sport you fancy, so just go for it. I reckon sport is a fundamental aspect of a student life; whichever it is and at whatever level it’s performed, you will only get benefit from practicing it…

…or almost! A big hug from your Postgraduate Hubstar!

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