Sales soar for Italy v England
Rome - With a month to go before Italy's first home Six Nations game of the season, sales for the match against England at the Stadio Olimpico have already topped 50 000.
Italian Rugby Federation president Giancarlo Dondi announced the figure - 52 000 - during a press conference on Thursday, adding that only 6 500 of those have been bought by away fans.
It is already close to double the number of spectators Italy used to get at the cosy Stadio Fliminio just a short walk away.
"I got goosebumps when I saw a great stadium like this with rugby posts," said Dondi.
"It's a reward, a step forward to show the great growth of our sport in Italy.
"Now I hope we can fill this structure which we hope can become our home in the future.
"We hope to continue in the Olimpico. If we manage to fill it then why should we go backwards?"
Italy's home for recent years has been the Stadio Flaminio which was due to undergo a major upgrade to increase it's capacity to 42 000 but that hasn't happened.
And Dondi blames bureaucracy for those plans falling through.
"As for the Flaminio, the federation has always wanted it's own home and to commit itself economically to increase it.
"But then we came across bureaucratic problems and now if you pass by that area you can see that it's been completely abandoned."
Dondi said he hopes to keep Rome as the home of the Italy rugby team, even though both Celtic League franchises are based in the traditional power base of the north.
Italy have always played in Rome, at the Flaminio, since their entry into the Six Nations in 2000 while November Test matches have been played mostly in the north.
Naples now wants to get in the on the act, though, and have asked to host the All Blacks at the San Paolo Stadium where Napoli play their home matches.
Two years ago Italy hosted New Zealand at Milan's San Siro stadium and were rewarded with an 80 000 sell-out crowd.
The San Paolo can seat 60 000 people and is the third biggest stadium in Italy after the San Siro and Stadio Olimpico.
However, Dondi played down the southern city's hopes.
"Naples has asked to host a Test match against the All Blacks, however we're evaluating it because we can't leave our debut at the San Paolo to chance.
"Maybe we'll start with a Test match and then based on how many spectators we get we'll see."