The links between Llanelli and Carwyn James’s Italy are being strengthened further.
Italian rugby team Grifoni Oderzo Rugby visited to Llanelli earlier this year as part of a Carwyn James Tour.
Now, former teacher Angelo Morello is looking to develop the links between west Wales and the northern corner of Italy by developing cultural as well as rugby ties between the two nations.
The ‘Carwyn James Rugby Legacy’ is already active in and around Treviso, Bologna and Rovigo.
Carwyn James occupies a landmark position in Welsh rugby history – the coach of the 1971 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, the only Lions side ever to win a series against the All Blacks.
He is also regarded with something approaching awe in Italy, where he coached Rugby Rovigo in the north-eastern corner of the country.
Carwyn James died aged just 53 in 1983 – but his legacy lives on nearly 40 years after his death.
And evidence of that comes in the continued rugby links between Wales and Italy.
One of those keeping the torch burning in Italy is Angelo Morello.
He explained: “I am a former teacher of foreign literatures in Italian grammar schools. When Carwyn arrived in my town to coach our first XV (1977) I was asked to assist him.
“We made friends from the first time I met him, and began talking about lots of matters, from rugby to politics, to poetry, music, art, life, etc.
“He very often came to my place where we enjoyed the dinners my wife cooked. I had a daughter (four years old) and a son (one year). I tried to teach him some Italian, but it was a failure (he had no time to study!).
“I translated his weekly newspaper articles on Il Resto del Carlino of Bologna (first season) and Il Gazzettino (second season) of Venice.
“I met some of his friends who came to Rovigo to speak to him (John Reason, Roy Bish, Onlwyn Brace, Gwyn Evans, Ieuan Evans, Alun Richards, his sister Gwen, Nora Isaacs, and many others). When he died I felt I had to do something to keep his name in our lives and, together with his nephew, Llyr James, and his brother, Dewi, we started.
“Many people have come to Rovigo on a sort of pilgrimage after he died, and everybody called me beforehand because they knew I was the guy who knew about him as a multi-sided man rather than a rugby coach only.
“The first one was Wynne Lloyd from Llandaff, a BBC director (cultural documentaries). He was my guest for 40 days. Then Gareth Price, the former BBC Wales general manager, followed with his wife Mary. Others kept coming over the next 15 years.
“Because the area where I live (Po valley) shared with Wales three historical periods (Proto-Roman, Roman, Celtic) Wynne Lloyd and I organised a cultural week in Rovigo followed by a second cultural week in Cardiff one year later in order to discuss our past civilization.
“Many first class professors from Wales took part and stayed in Rovigo a few days. We did the same the year after.
“In 1997 I translated Alun Richards’ play ‘The Horizontal Life’ and an Italian company performed it for the first time in Italy.
“Alun came over and we added a concert by Sian James and an art exhibition with paintings by Mary Lloyd Jones.
“The ties between the two countries got stronger and stronger, other films about Carwyn followed, until Alun Gibbard (Llanelli author) came and met me to go deeper into Carwyn’s stay in Rovigo – a biography was published later (Into the Wind).
“However, Llyr and I felt that we had to build stronger and regular ties with Wales, and the Carwyn James Rugby School was established.
“This year it turned into ‘Carwyn James Legacy Association’.
“We have a lot of projects for the future.”
Angelo added that the Carwyn James Legacy would help promote events other than rugby given Carwyn’s many interests – poetry, music, politics, Welsh language and literature, journalism, etc.
One idea is to invite two Welsh choirs to the Treviso, Bologna and Rovigo area next year, to sing alongside two Italian choirs.
Angelo continued: “I’d be more interested to hear what the people of Llanelli think about developing further links with Italy to continue the Carwyn James Legacy.”