Leonardo Ghiraldini is not one for basking in the limelight but he admits there will be something special about joining Italian rugby’s centurions at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
The former Italy skipper, who represented the Azzurri 107 times in all, is one of eight centurions who will be celebrated before the Guinness Six Nations clash between Italy and Scotland in Rome this weekend.
Only Sergio Parisse, in action for club side Toulon, will be absent, with Ghiraldini and six male counterparts joining Sara Barattin, Italy’s only female centurion.
And the hooker, who called time on his international career in 2021, admits there will be plenty of emotion about being part of the Italian rugby family.
He said: “I’m very happy to be involved. When we talk about rugby, this is the legacy that you want to leave. When you represent your country it’s a huge responsibility.
“If you play more than 100 games it’s fantastic. I don’t like too much celebration of this but you know that you are part of a family.
“In the changing room at the Stadio Olimpico they have all the players who played for the national team and it has the name and the number of the player. You see that you are small part of a big family.
“Achieving 100 caps for your country is unbelievable and if I see the people, the names have been able to reach these goals, before the player comes the person. These are all incredible people and they made a big effort to get better. Hopefully it will be a great day.”
The eight players in attendance will each receive an exclusive cap to recognise the extraordinary service they have given to Italian rugby.
Ghiraldini will be joined by fellow front-rowers Martin Castrogiovanni and Andrea Lo Cicero, lock Marco Bortolami, back-rowers Alessandro Zanni and Mauro Bergamasco and scrum-halves Alessandro Troncon and Barattin.
And he hopes that the legacy of the centurions can inspire the current side as they look to get back to winning ways, recalling a match in which Ghiraldini played in 2013 when a group of former Italy players were recognised before a win over France.
He recalls: “I still remember the day when the caps were given to the former Azzurri players, who then sang the anthem on the pitch in front of us before the match against France in 2013 which we won.
“It was such an emotional day for all of us. These are the moments that I consider important when you realize that you are part of a constantly evolving system and you must feel lucky to be able at that moment to give your contribution, to carry on the ball that others have carried before you.
“I really believe in these words of leaving the jersey in a better place. I always asked myself how I could go forward in life and in rugby? If I do a step forward, is it really a step forward? That’s part of how I live my life now.”