Italian hooker, Leonardo Ghiraldini, who won 107 caps for the Azzuri, has called time on a 14-year Test career.

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FIR have said that Ghiraldini retirement brings to an end the era of Italian players born in the early 1980s, with the hooker’s retirement coming shortly after fellow centurions Sergio Parisse and Alexandro Zanni.

From his debut under Pierre Berbizier in Tokyo against Japan in 2006, he went on to captain Italy 17 times and appeared at four consecutive Rugby World Cup between 2007 to 2019.

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Wayne Pivac explains his Six Nations squad:

He enjoyed stints at Leicester Tigers, Stade Toulousain, Calvisano and of course his beloved Benetton.

“I have always given my all for the blue, on and off the pitch, aware that it was not an acquired right to play for Italy, but doing everything possible to win that right.

“I considered each call-up with the national team to be a unique and special occasion, to be lived with all the energy, passion and respect possible, because these moments are never taken for granted,” said Ghiraldini.

“I have represented my country at every level, from the U16 to four editions of the World Cup. I have had the privilege of captaining Italy on many occasions, of playing in all the most important tournaments in the Northern Hemisphere. After the injury in 2019 against France, I worked to the best of my ability to get back to the top-level so as to deserve a national team call up once again. I thank Franco Smith for giving me the opportunity, last autumn, to dress the ‘blue once again and for the confidence he would have given me again in the Six Nations that is about to start.”

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“Now, I think it’s the right time to say goodbye to international rugby, to thank Italy, my teammates, the coaches who have allowed me to play for a whole movement, our incredible fans for the love they have for me.”

“I leave a small door open to rugby being played, but it is time for me to look beyond my professional future and that of my family,” declared the Paduan hooker.

FIR President Alfredo Gavazzi said of the frontrower: “For work ethic, professionalism, ability to inspire teammates by example, Leonardo Ghiraldini represents, in my personal opinion and in that of thousands of fans, one of the greatest Italian rugby players of all time.

“I remember him as a very young protagonist in the top league, when he moved to Calvisano from Petrarca: the first steps of a path that would see him take off in an extraordinary career towards Treviso first, Leicester and then Toulouse. For Leonardo, the same words I said for Alessandro Zanni apply: our movement can only feel admiration and gratitude for the priceless contribution it has guaranteed to the cause of our national team in fourteen years of career at the highest levels “he declared the

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