Italy coach Kieran Crowley has named Michele Lamaro as his new captain ahead of the Autumn Nations Series.
Crowley will oversee his first internationals in charge since his appointment was announced in May and has selected the Benetton back rower as the man to lead his new-look 34-man squad.
Lamaro has already established himself as a mainstay in the Italian pack at just 23 years old and will take over from hooker Luca Bigi, who had been in the role since the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“It is a great honour for me to be handed the captaincy,” said Lamaro, who will lead his side out for the first time against New Zealand on November 6.
“My first thought, after receiving the news from Kieran Crowley, immediately went to my family and to all the people who have supported me over the years who have contributed in an important way to my growth.
“The figure of the captain has undergone an evolution over time. He has gone from a unique figure to a group of experienced players who support the captain in managing the group. I think being able to have more points of reference for all team members is a fundamental aspect in team sports.
“I have had illustrious predecessors in this role. I will do my best to be able to help Italy achieve its goals.”
Kieran Crowley names first Italy squad for Autumn Nations Series
Zebre ace Bigi had succeeded the talismanic figure of Sergio Parisse, the Guinness Six Nations record appearance holder having played 69 games, and now Italy will once again be captained from the base of the scrum by Lamaro, who has won seven international caps.
Benetton, where Crowley spent five years before stepping up to the top job in Italian rugby, appointed Lamaro as co-captain alongside Dewaldt Duvenage ahead of the start of the United Rugby Championship season.
Lamaro also has international captaincy pedigree having skippered Italy’s junior sides all the way from Under-17s up to the Under-20s, who he led for two seasons.
In the absence of the injured Jake Polledri in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Lamaro impressed with some powerful ball carrying and industrious work around the park as he started all five fixtures in the No.8 shirt.
Italy have not played a competitive fixture since losing 52-10 away to Scotland in the final game of this year’s Guinness Six Nations, where they finished sixth.
New Zealander Crowley faces a stern test against the country of his birth first up in the Autumn Nations Series, having seen Italy’s summer tour to the same country cancelled amid complications caused by Covid-19.
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And after announcing his new captain, Crowley said: “We have a group of very good young players who made their debut in the national team in a period of time not too far from each other.
“The choice fell on one of the athletes who showed great growth from a technical and leadership point of view with a constant maturation who, after the FIR youth selections, from this season will also lead one of the two federal franchises.
“I want to thank Luca Bigi for the approach he had and for the work done as captain. He will continue to be an important part of the leadership group from now on.”
Italy’s Autumn Nations Series concludes with a South American double header as they face fixtures against Argentina and Uruguay in consecutive weeks.