Tito Tebaldi marked his selection in Italy’s Guinness Six Nations squad in style with a hat-trick for club side Benetton in their European Challenge Cup triumph over Agen.
The scrum-half was named by Conor O’Shea in his 31-man squad earlier in the week for Italy’s training camp in Rome ahead of the 2019 Championship.
And the 31-year-old appears to have put himself in pole position to start the Azzurri’s opening game against Scotland at Murrayfield in February with his display at Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
Tebaldi got the home side off to the perfect start with two tries in the opening 15 minutes, finishing clinically on both occasions as Italy fly-half Ian McKinley added a conversion.
Agen gradually fought their way back into the game with a penalty from Hugo Verdu and a try from Loic Hocquet to cut Benetton’s lead to two points at half-time.
But the hosts made sure of the result with further tries from Monty Ioane and a brace from Ratuva Tavuyara, before Tebaldi completed his treble just after the hour.
McKinley, who is also in Italy’s training squad, finished with four conversions as he also looks to stake a claim for the No.10 shirt for the Guinness Six Nations.
Tebaldi started all four of Italy’s games during the Autumn Internationals, but he has not appeared for his country in the Championship since 2014 – a stat which looks set to change next month.