Matteo Minozzi has spent almost an entire season on the sidelines but the Italy full-back is eager to make up for lost time with the Azzurri.
Minozzi enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2018, earning a Player of the Championship nomination after scoring in four successive matches for Italy.
However, last August, he suffered a serious knee injury, ruling him out of the entirety of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
He has not featured since but was named in Conor O’Shea’s 44-man preparation squad for the Rugby World Cup.
And Minozzi, who was with the squad for the start of their training camp in Pergine, is thrilled to be back on the pitch.
He said: “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.
“I’ve had to train every day, to train perfectly, to eat well. If I’d not done that, I wouldn’t be here now.
“It’s a little victory, especially in this sport because I’d never been sidelined for such a long period.
“I’m really happy to be here because beyond the opportunity we have now. I missed putting on my boots and getting out on the pitch.”
The only thing that remains for Minozzi is to start contact training again, which he will begin with the rest of the national team.
And while the Azzurri finished bottom of the Championship table, despite good performances in each of their home encounters, Minozzi has big ambitions for the World Cup.
He added: “All 44 of us have one focus which is to be the best Italian team ever, the best-ever result for an Italian team at a World Cup. The ambition is to make the quarter-finals.
“We’re working for Italy so that people remember this squad more than the individuals. We want to be remembered for doing something that had never been achieved before.”
Italy will continue training until the end of this week, with a second camp scheduled for the end of the month, also in Pergine.