Italy's Tommaso Allan says he's ready for an emotional Six Nations clash against Scotland, but insists his head is focused on the rugby.
Italy's Tommaso Allan says he's ready for an emotional Six Nations clash against Scotland, but while heart strings will be tugged by the 'Flower of Scotland' he insists his head is focused on the rugby.
Allan lines up for his sixth Azzurri cap on Saturday as one of several talented players that coach Jacques Brunel is hoping to prime in time for next year's World Cup.
But as Rome's Olympic Stadium prepares to welcome the friendly invasion of a kilted Tartan Army seeking an upturn in fortunes after heavy defeats to Ireland and England, the 20-year-old Allan knows his experience will be “special”.
Born in Vicenza to a Scottish father, William, and an Italian mother, Paola, Allan came through the Scottish ranks at under-17, 18 and 20 level before stopping short of his full senior debut.
His decision late last year to play for the country of his mother caused what he described as a “shitstorm” in the land of his father.
But, in an interview with AFP, Allan said he has no regrets.
“It was always a hard decision, because Scotland helped me in the previous age groups and I am half-Scottish as well. But then I had to choose and I had to make a choice based on what's best for my future,” he said.
Scotland's loss has become the Azzurri's gain, but when looking at Allan's progression through the ranks there is method in the madness.
He avoided the Scottish amateur ranks when his agent bagged an 'Espoir' (under-20) contract at Perpignan.
The Top 14 side then called him up for the first time earlier this season and due to injury absences Allan was given a chance to shine at fly-half.
Word soon got round to Brunel, who was Perpignan's coach from 2007-2011, and before Scotland could blink Allan was swapping a dark blue shirt adorned with a thistle for a pale blue one with an Italian tricolour.
Although he still gets a ribbing from fellow Italy players, Allan insists he has no qualms about his decision.
“Obviously, there's always a bit of banter in the team with some guys joking how I'm half Scottish. But it's all playful, nothing mean and we all laugh about it,” he added.
“I've lived half my life in Italy, most of my family still lives here. There's also a little bit more of a feeling that I have my roots down here as well.”
So, no hard feelings – at least on paper.
But Allan, who speaks fluent Italian, French and English – the latter with a hint of an accent from South Africa where he turned out for the Western Province club – admits Saturday's game will be “pretty special”.
“Obviously it's a bit of a different game from the other ones,” he said.
“It's pretty special, but you also have to think of it as a normal game, otherwise there can be too many emotions.”
Although Italy start as favourites, Allan said: “We're always wary of Scotland. They always give a tough game to Italy and they're looking to win this as well.
“We've got to treat this as any other game… we can also lose this is as much as we can win it.”
Allan's only previous experience of facing a Scottish side came while playing for Perpignan away to Edinburgh, at the Murrayfield Stadium where the world famous rendition of the 'Flower of Scotland' anthem gets the hairs a-tingling.
On that occasion there were pre-match nerves: “I overplayed the possible reactions in my head, but it wasn't too bad.”
With thousands of kilted Scotsmen already walking the streets of the Eternal City and giving the locals an eyeful, Allan knows it will be a different story at an Olympic Stadium where 65,000 fans are expected.
Especially when the cameras swings in his direction to make sure he doesn't suffer an emotional mix-up.
“I've got to make sure I sing the right anthem!” he said.
“No seriously, obviously it will be really special. I can't wait for kick-off tomorrow so I can experience it. But it's the Six Nations and I've just got to concentrate on the rugby.
“I've seen quite a few (Scotland) fans here in Italy already and it's been alright so far. Hopefully nothing will happen tomorrow at the game.”