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Minozzi Returns to Italy Squad

Italy’s World Cup warm-up campaign is looking a lot brighter after long-term absentee Matteo Minozzi has returned to action

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(Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Italy’s 2018 break-through star Matteo Minozzi has been named in the nations squad for their upcoming warm-up games against Ireland and Russia.

It comes as much-needed good news for the Italians who confirmed star centre Tommaso Castello would miss the World Cup earlier in the week. 

Minozzi returns following almost a whole season on the side-lines following a ruptured ACL while playing for Zebre last year. This was after he made a massive impression in the 2018 Six Nations where he was nominated for player of the tournament, scoring four tries across the five games.

His talent and room for improvement saw Wasps swoop in and sign him, however, he has been unable to play a single game for them this campaign due to the injury.

Speaking in June the full-back discussed his goal was to be back in time to help his country at the World Cup in Japan, but it was proving a tough task.

“My objective was to be back for this but I had no idea if I would make it. It was a really hard journey, and it’s new for me. I’d got to the level I achieved up to then thanks to my talent but I’d never had to work as hard, to take as much care of myself,” he said.

As well as Minozzi’s return there are call-ups for three uncapped players in Benetton front-rows Marco Riccioni and Engjel Makelara along with Gloucester scrum-half Callum Braley, who qualifies to represent the Azzurri due to his grandparents.

Makelara has been included due to the absence of centurion Leonardo Ghiraldini, who has been out injured since rupturing his knee ligaments in March but is trying to make it back for the World Cup.

Head coach Conor O’Shea is looking forward to testing his side in the coming weeks and noted how hard it will be for Minozzi to come straight back in to test rugby.

“These matches are crucial for achieving the objectives that we set ourselves for the Rugby World Cup,” Italy coach Conor O’Shea said of the upcoming fixtures. It is not an easy task for any player to start the season with a test match, but it is the challenge that all teams are facing. The boys have worked incredibly hard in the summer and now are ready for the matches,” he said.

The Azzurri start their warm-up games against Ireland next Saturday, August 10th, before playing Russia a week later, after which the squad will be reassessed and announced for their final matches before heading to Japan for the World Cup.

Check Out the Full Squad Below.

Forwards:

Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby, 22 caps)

Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 34 caps)

Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton Rugby, 18 caps)

Nicola Quaglio (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)

Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 0 caps)

Federico Zani (Benetton Rugby 7 caps)

Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 19 caps)

Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby Club, 7 caps)

Engjel Makelara (Benetton Rugby, 0 caps)

Dean Budd (Benetton Rugby, 20 caps)

Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)

Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)

David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 5 caps)

Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Rugby, 111 caps)

Renato Giammarioli (Zebre Rugby Club, 3 caps)

Giovanni Licata (Zebre Rugby Club, 7 caps)

Maxime Mbanda (Zebre Rugby Club, 16 caps)

Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 16 caps)

Sergio Parisse (Tolone, 138 caps)

Jake Polledri (Gloucester, 8 caps)

Abraham Steyn (Benetton Rugby, 30 caps)

Jimmy Tuivaiti (Zebre Rugby Club, 3 caps)

Backs:

Callum Braley (Gloucester, 0 caps)

Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby Club, 31 caps)

Tito Tebaldi (Benetton Rugby, 32 caps)

Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 48 caps)

Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 32 caps)

Ian McKinley (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)

Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Rugby, 56 caps)

Michele Campagnaro (Harlequins, 42 caps)

Luca Morisi (Benetton Rugby, 25 caps)

Marco Zanon (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)

Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 17 caps)

Giulio Bisegni (Zebre Rugby Club, 11 caps)

Angelo Esposito (Benetton Rugby, 20 caps)

Jayden Hayward (Benetton Rugby, 17 caps)

Matteo Minozzi (Wasps, 10 caps)

Edoardo Padovani (Zebre Rugby Club, 20 caps)

6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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International

All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year Confirmed

The All Blacks have had an off-colour year compared to their usual high standards but there were some stand-out performers and the players have cast their vote on their player of the year

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been announced as the All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year for 2019.

The nation as a whole were disappointed with their year having lost out on the Rugby Championship and failing to retain their Rugby World Cup crown, with their rivals South Africa claiming both. 

However, despite all the downsides there were some stand-out performances and Savea has stood out among his peers for his showings this year beating fellow teammates Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor and Anton Lienert-Brown to the award. 

It brings Savea’s year to a bright ending after also being pipped to the World Player of the Year award by Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit last month. Although Savea will miss a chunk of the 2020 season having confirmed he will undergo surgery on a knee problem which will leave him side-lined for between four to six months.

Sevu Reece was handed the Players’ Super Rugby Player of the Year after finishing top of the try-scoring charts with the Crusaders

Meanwhile, in the women’s voting Charmaine McMenamin came out on top as the Players’ International Player of the Year. 

The New Zealand Rugby 2019 awards take place on Thursday with both Savea and McMenamin up for the Player of the Year award going up against Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown, and Black Ferns’ Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-l’iga respectively.

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International

Cooper Talks About Kneeing McCaw in the Head

Quade Cooper has opened up on his career to date and in particular his controversial knee to Richie McCaw

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(Photo by CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia’s Quade Cooper has opened up on when he kneed former All Black Richie McCaw in the head and the backlash he received.

Cooper, a New Zealand-born Wallabies player, was talking on the Ice Project podcast with Isaac John about his rugby career to date and owned up to his “dirty” knee to McCaw’s head in a game leading up to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, admitting he apologised to the All Blacks legend years later.

“A few years later I’ve seen Richie in the airport and I went up to him and said, ‘Sorry about that’. It’s not that he didn’t care or he did care but, when I said sorry to him, I confronted it and said, ‘I really looked up to you as a kid, you were my idol, everyone in New Zealand loves you and I loved you, so when I played against you it was just emotion, passion took over, you were playing dirty on me and I kneed you. He’s one of the best at [dirty play],” he said.

The incident caused uproar among fans and the now veteran Wallaby, who has 70-caps to his name confirmed that he wasn’t ready for the backlash he received and how he couldn’t even go out.

“I look back at it now and I wasn’t ready for it. I had the expectation of 2011 of playing good football but now I had the pressure of all these guys hating me as well, and a whole country, not just the rugby public. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was on the team bus and there were signs ‘I hope you break your leg, I hope you die in this game’. If I had my time again, [because] I know how to handle it now, I’d just say, ‘Yeah I did it, so what?’. Not ‘So what?’, but ‘It’s part of footy, it was a bad play but I did it’, so what could people say?” he added.

In the end McCaw got the last laugh, going on to win the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand later that year.

Cooper’s career has had its ups and downs since, but he is now starting a new chapter in Japan with the Kintetsu Liners in the second-division where he will be hoping to stay out of the limelight.

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