Wasps boss Lee Blackett has outlined his excitement that his full-back Matteo Minozzi has bounced his way back into form following a difficult spring where he opted out of Italy selection for the Guinness Six Nations and then lost his place in his Gallagher Premiership club’s XV.
It was January 24 when the 24-year-old who has 22 caps for his country made himself unavailable for the Italians’ championship campaign, posting a difficult message to social media to explain his reasons.
“The last year has changed many things, changing the country and a few months after having to experience the UK lockdown away from everyone has been a great and difficult challenge,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, I’ve worked like never before in my life to find my place in a super competitive reality like the Premiership and to find myself ready for Italy last fall.
“I wanted to be honest with Franco (Smith, Italy head coach) and I want to be honest with all the Italian enthusiasts who believe in me and love me: I’m physically and mentally tired, a bit too much to live another two months in a bubble. I hope even if you can’t support it, you’ll understand my choice.”
Minozzi went on to start the next five Premiership matches for Wasps but he then lost his place, having to bench twice before reclaiming the No15 jersey last weekend against Sale and signalling a return to form that has ensured he will wear it again when his club hosts Clermont in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday.
"He is absolutely desperate to be out there"
– 20-year-old Alfie Barbeary is back in harness at Wasps after surgery halted his December gallop as a Premiership player of the month award and an England squad call-up#ChampionsCup #GallagherPremhttps://t.co/unqppBIRSW
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 31, 2021
“We all know what a good individual he can be,” said Wasps boss Blackett about Minozzi who first linked up with the Coventry-based club following the 2019 World Cup in Japan. “His English has improved massively which has made a massive difference. Not just that, his overall game has been improving and I still think there are big improvements there, that is the exciting thing with Matteo – he is nowhere near the finished product. There is plenty more in him.
“Also what I would say for where we probably struggled a little bit in places is strength in depth. Rob Miller has come in and done a really good job and now there is pressure on Matteo to perform. The more we can have that the better.
“Paolo Odogwu coming back gives us competition at 13 and on the wings and before you know, that competitive edge, that competition for places is going to drive everyone in the environment. The thing in the last couple of months was if you were fit you were playing. That was not far off where we were.
“Now you are starting to see a few bodies come back and the competition for places is going to be massive and is going to drive individuals – and we have seen that in Matteo. No player likes being left out but there is that hunger to keep the shirt and I thought he did a good performance last weekend. I actually thought his communication off the ball was the best I have seen in him.”
An appearance for Tonga ?? at an Olympics 7s qualifier in June on the same weekend as the Premiership semi-finals could open the door to World Cup 2023 in France #GallagherPrem #Tokyo2020https://t.co/zc78U9zjNG
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 30, 2021
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