The last time Dan Parks was in the Stadio Flaminio was on the Ides of March 2008. He departed with a hail of critical daggers being thrust between his shoulder blades.
They might have been of a metaphorical nature but they were painfully to the point. The Glasgow fly-half's error-riddled performance in Scotland's 23-20 defeat was described in one quarter as having been "of calamitous, Carry On dimensions''. The consensus was that the native Sydneysider would not be carrying on as an international outside-half.
Yet there he was in the same Roman arena yesterday, not just back in town as the pivot of the Scotland team preparing for this afternoon's Six Nations basement battle but back with a stamp of approval from some all-time greats No 10s. According to Phil Bennett, Parks was "magnificent'' in Scotland's 31-24 defeat against Wales in Cardiff a fortnight ago. Jonathan Davies gave him the official man of the match award, saying: "He controlled the game beautifully.''
Scotland will need Dan to be a similarly influential man this afternoon if they are to recover from the psychological hammer blow they took in failing to hold on to a 24-14 lead in the final four minutes in Cardiff. And to think last autumn he was not even included in Andy Robinson's 44-man training squad for the November Tests at Murrayfield. At 31, it seemed he was on the international scrap-heap.
It was not just the perception that Parks was too one-dimensional and error-prone for the international game. When he received a drink-driving conviction in May last year, even his place in the No 10 shirt at Glasgow came under threat. Which makes his latest step on the redemption road an intriguing one. Having got another chance with Scotland because of assured club form, and seized the chance with his finest display for the land of his Ayrshire grandfather, Parks is in direct opposition to another native Aussie who is in rehabilitation after falling even fouler of the drink.
Craig Gower's reputation was sullied by a string of alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours before he turned his back on Australian rugby league and reinvented himself as an Italian international in union. At the Jack Newton Celebrity Golf Classic in Queensland in 2005, he groped a 17-year-old girl, vomited on her brother, ran naked across the golf course, wrecked a golf cart and held a butter knife to the throat of a Sydney radio personality.
Nick Mallett, Italy's head coach was far from impressed when he saw Gower's entry on Wikipedia but – like Robinson – his options in the outside-half department are not exactly limitless. Thus the former captain of the Kangaroos, whose maternal grandfather hails central Italy, wins his ninth cap for the Azzurri today.
Parks gets his 49th cap for Scotland, confident of avoiding another copybook blotting afternoon in the Italian capital. "I'd like to think I've come on since then," he said, on the subject of his Roman nightmare of 2008. "My confidence is slightly greater now."
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