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Jake Polledri on choosing Italy over England and Wales

By Stefan Frost
(Photo by Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Italian sensation Jake Polledri has been a mainstay on the international stage for some time, but his international career could have been radically different.

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The Gloucester back rower was eligible to represent three different nations, but chose Italy ahead the two alternatives – England and Wales.

When appearing on the Offload, Polledri spoke about his decision to choose Rome ahead of London.

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Jake Polledri – Return to rugby & taking Italy to the next level | RugbyPass Offload | EP 47
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Jake Polledri – Return to rugby & taking Italy to the next level | RugbyPass Offload | EP 47

“When I first broke into the Gloucester first team, Conor O’Shea approached me on the phone and said: ‘We have a big plan for the World Cup’.

“To be given the opportunity to play international rugby and at a World Cup, I grabbed it with two hands and I’ve not looked back since. I don’t regret it at all,” said Polledri.

When asked whether Eddie Jones had ever come calling, he answered with a curt ‘no’.

“It was just Conor at the time. There’s never been anything from that side.”

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Having played the bulk of his school rugby in Bristol, Polledri joined the neighbouring Hartpury RFC before signing his first professional contract with Gloucester Rugby.

In that period the English-born player also represented Italy U20s at the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship, laying the groundwork for his career on the international stage.

“There are plenty of people that can wait around [for an international call up]. For me it was just about playing at a World Cup and Six Nations which is an unbelievable experience.”

Polledri could have also featured for Wales, had the opportunity presented itself, as his late grandfather John was born in Abertillery in the Gwent valleys. But it was not to be.

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“Again, nothing from them. At the time there was just that one opportunity.”

The absence of other suitors did not taint the Gloucester flanker’s international debut, which came in the 2018 Six Nations against Scotland. Italy ended up losing 27-29, but that didn’t bother Polledri, who had his parents, two brothers and partner in the crowd.

“It was unbelievable. I actually started the game which was amazing to do on debut. I had my family there in Rome for my first international game. I was learning the anthem before the game – that’s a joke.

“As a kid growing up, that’s the competition that you watch, it’s the most talked about. To play in it was just amazing and my family were so proud.”

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