COVID concerns force Italy changes
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Wasps fullback Matteo Minozzi was omitted from Italy’s Six Nations squad over his concerns of living in a COVID-19 bubble during the Championship.
Minozzi, 24, who has scored 11 tries in 22 Tests and is one of the few genuine attacking threats in the Italian backline, said the similar conditions during last year’s year-end Nations Cup were difficult, prompting him to choose against joining up with Franco Smith’s set-up.
“I wanted to be honest with Franco and I want to be honest with all the Italian fans 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,” he said on Instagram.
“I can’t decide if and when to return, but I hope I will be given the opportunity.”
The competition is set to go ahead as scheduled despite French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu asking for further protocol “guarantees” due to a COVID-19 strain in Britain.
Elsewhere, back row forwards Braam Steyn and Jake Polledri are missing while experienced hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini retired from international rugby on Sunday.
Former Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse will also be absent and told newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport last week the idea of a Test return was not currently in his thoughts.
Toulon’s 37-year-old No.8 last featured for his country in the 2019 World Cup group stage loss to South Africa.
Smith has selected four uncapped players in Zebre front row forwards Daniele Rimpelli and Marco Manfredi, Mogliano lock Riccard Favretto and Treviso’s Buenos Aires-born centre Juan Ignacio Brex.
The squad will meet Thursday for a training camp in Rome ahead of hosting France in the tournament opener in the Italian capital on February 6.
“We have a united and valid squad that will be added to by other players who already have got to savour the atmosphere of the Azzurri,” Smith said.
Backs: Mattia Bellini, Juan Ignacio Brex, Monty Ioane, Federico Mori, Luca Speriando, Jacopo Trulla, Marco Zanon, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Paolo Garbisi, Callum Braley, Guglielmo Palazzani, Stephen Varney.
Forwards: Michele Lamaro, Maxime Mbanda, Johan Meyer, Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Niccolo Cannone, Riccardo Favretto, Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi, Cristian Stoian, Luca Bigi, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Pietro Ceccarelli, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Daniele Rimpelli, Cherif Traore, Giosue Zilocchi.