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'Tired' Minozzi the headline omission in Italy's 32-man Six Nations squad

By Online Editors
Italy's Matteo Minozzi. (Getty)

Matteo Minozzi is the headline omission from the Italy squad named for the opening rounds of the 2021 Six Nations. Head coach Franco Smith has named a 32-man selection ahead of the Azzurri’s opening round fixture against France on February 6.

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Smith has named a squad largely similar to the group selected for the autumn international window, with the addition of six uncapped players (four called up and two invited to train). The squad are due to gather in Rome on Thursday.

However Smith will have to plan without Wasps’ Matteo Minozzi, who has ruled himself out of the tournament because he feels “physically and mentally tired.”

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Earlier on Monday Wasps boss Lee Blackett backed the player’s decision to rule himself out.

“It’s been a tough period for Matteo and I am sure it won’t be the last time we see him in an Italy shirt. I spoke to him in detail about this eight weeks ago and we felt he needed a mid-season break.

“If Matteo wants to play international rugby we are fully behind and if he doesn’t we are also fully behind him. It is something he thought long and hard about after being out for a year with a bad injury then goes to a new country and it’s been a tough period. We will manage him through this period. A lot of people may have worried about losing their place in the future but Italy are very understanding.

“He has said enough is enough for the time being.”

Minozzi announced his decision to sit out the tournament on social media.

“After the Autumn Nations Cup, I’ve been thinking for a long time about my performance and how much Italian colleagues, coaches and fans expect from me,” he said.

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“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.

“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. I will cheer for my teammates like I always did for the national team and wish my teammates and all the staff the best of luck. I can’t decide if and when I return, but I hope I’ll be given the opportunity. Come on Italy.”

Italy squad

Forwards
Pietro Ceccarelli (Brive, 14 caps)
Danilo Fischetti (Zebre Rugby Club, 8 caps)
Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 7 caps)
Daniele Rimpelli (Zebre Rugby Club, uncapped)
Cherif Traore (Benetton Rugby, 10 caps)
Giosuè Zilocchi (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps)
Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 32 caps) – CAPTAIN
Gianmarco Lucchesi (Benetton Rugby, 2 caps)
Marco Manfredi (Zebre Rugby Club, uncapped)
Niccolò Cannone (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)
Riccardo Favretto (Mogliano Rugby 1969, uncapped)
Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 11 caps)
David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 11 caps)
Cristian Stoian (Fiamme Oro Rugby, 2 caps)
Michele Lamaro (Benetton Rugby, 2 caps)
Maxime Mbanda (Zebre Rugby Club, 25 caps)
Johan Meyer (Zebre Rugby Club, 9 caps)
Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 28 caps)
Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby, 19 caps)

Backs
Callum Braley (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)
Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby Club, 41 caps)
Stephen Varney (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)
Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 60 caps)
Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 47 caps)
Paolo Garbisi (Benetton Rugby, 5 caps)
Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 28 caps)
Juan Ignacio Brex (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)
Federico Mori (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 5 caps)
Luca Sperandio (Benetton Rugby, 6 caps)
Jacopo Trulla (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 3 caps)
Marco Zanon (Benetton Rugby, 4 caps)

Additional invited players
Michelangelo Biondelli (Zebre Rugby Club, uncapped); Tommaso Boni (Zebre Rugby Club, 11 caps); Renato Giammarioli (Zebre Rugby Club, 4 caps); Tommaso Menoncello (Benetton Rugby, uncapped); Marcello Violi (Zebre Rugby Club, 19 caps)

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finn 5 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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