The wooden spoon is once again within Italys grasp after an 18-10 spanking on Saturday against Scotland in the Six Nations rugby championship. Odds makers wager that it will take a near miracle for the inexperienced Azzurri to defeat either world champions England or defending Six Nations champions France in their final two matches. Otherwise, its last place for Italy and a fourth spoon in six years.

Still, the Azzurri are showing marked improvement in this, the countrys other football, and the Scottish fans that filled Finnegan Irish pub in Rome on Saturday were not without concern on their fair faces. The crowd at Finnegan was decidedly in Scotlands favour, although a small number of Italians managed to let out the occasional Forza! between Scottish chant and song.

Italians are starting to discover rugby, said Tommaso Vecchio, as he discovered the bottom of a pint of ale. Its a more exciting sport to watch than football. When I watch rugby, I want to be there.

The 29-year-old filmmaker is one of the few Italians that understands the game, thanks in the most part to his mother being English. What Vecchio enjoys most about one of the meanest, most punishing sports in the world, interestingly, is how nice people are.

Even if you are cheering for the other team, everyone is friendly and will go out for drinks after the match, he said. Its just a game. If Italy loses in football, everyone will be depressed and talk about it for weeks.

And friendly they were on Saturday at Finnegan, as the Scottish fans were kind enough to give a sympathetic round of applause for the Italians fans as they left. A fine place for a rugby match, Finnegan, where the owners are Irish, the bartender is Scottish, and not an eyebrow is raised when a Welshman requests 17 pints of ale.

Jim Telfer, on vacation in Rome from Scotland, sat tight in his seat as the bar started to empty following Scotlands win. When asked if he would stay for the Wales match against France, he replied, Of course. Were drinking people.

The Azzurri travel to England for their next match on 12 March and will finish up the Six Nations against France on 19 March in Rome at Stadio Flaminio.

Finnegan. Via Leonina 66. Rome.