|Born||Treviso, September 6, 1973
|Internationals||101 caps between 1994 and 2007
|Inducted||England v Italy (February 7, 2009)
The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.
Alessandro Troncon made his debut for Italy when he came on as a replacement against Spain in Parma in 1994. He would probably prefer to forget the result of his first match at Twickenham two years later, a 54-21 trouncing, but his memories of the aftermath return to him with chilling clarity.
“When we left the pitch and went into the changing rooms, I was thinking of those big baths filled with hot water and imagining me just lying in one of them, soaking out all the aches in my muscles.
“But when we got into the changing rooms we had a shock. The baths had been filled with ice. It was the new treatment and it was supposed to be good for us we were told. The ice baths were to help us recover for our next match, which was against Scotland. So we had no choice. The manager told us we had to get in them, so I did, but I didn’t enjoy it one bit. It was a shock for me.”
At least Troncon was able to thaw out under a “wonderful” scalding hot shower afterwards.
The Italy scrum half was already an established international by then, and went on to a long and distinguished career for his country, during which he won a staggering 101 caps and scored 19 tries.
Ice baths apart, Troncon has very warm memories of Twickenham. “Every rugby player knows that Twickenham is the temple of rugby. It is an enormous honour to have played there and to be included on the Wall of Fame at Twickenham it is a dream come true.”
His first full international at the ground was also something special for Troncon. “I had never played in a stadium like Twickenham before. It was an amazing place to me.” As we know, that match ended in a defeat for Italy, but it was personal triumph for the powerfully built scrum half, who scored the second of their three tries. Troncon’s 62nd-minute effort that November day was the highlight of what was described at the time as an “inspiring” performance.
In 2005 Troncon was at it again, scoring a try at Twickenham, although Italy again crashed to a heavy defeat. But given his feat of twice scoring a try at the Stadium, it is little wonder that he feels as he does about Headquarters: “Twickenham has a special place in my heart.”
In 1996 the reconstruction and makeover of the great stadium was nowhere near complete, but the magic was still there for Troncon. By the time he eventually decided to call time on his career, in 2007, there was just the South Stand rebuilding left to do.
But whatever the stadium looked like, for Troncon the turf remained the same as he had first trodden on it a decade or so earlier. “When I had played my last game at Twickenham,” he recalled, “I had had a hot shower and was changed, everyone else was ready to go and the manager told me to hurry up. But I said to him to wait for me, that I had something to do.
“I went out through the players’ tunnel for one last time and walked out to the middle of the pitch. I had already taken lots of photographs inside, because I did not know if I would ever be back at Twickenham and in this part of the ground ever again.
“I took another 20 or so photos out on the pitch and then I put my camera away and just stood there on the pitch for a few minutes to breathe in the Twickenham air and savour the atmosphere for one final time.”
Happily that match was not to be Troncon’s last appearance at Twickenham. He returned in 2009 as a member of the Italy coaching staff.
“Of course as a coach my perception of the ground will be different from when I was a player,” says Troncon, “but my feelings for the place will still be as strong and I will still enjoy the occasion, just as I did when I first played at the ground.”
Article by Dai Llewellyn