As far as international debuts go, Tommaso Menoncello’s in the 2022 Guiness Men's Six Nations was pretty memorable.

Two years ago, the young three-quarter was thrust into the Italy team to face France in Paris by then coach Kieran Crowley with the advice to “do what we know you can do, don’t think too much about it, and enjoy yourself.”

He responded in spectacular style with a debut try inside 20 minutes. After second-row Federico Ruzza had taken Italy beyond France’s 5m line, fly-half Paolo Garbisi picked out Menoncello in space on the right wing with a cross-kick that he touched down in the corner.

There was a nervous wait as the TMO checked whether his heels had brushed the line, but with the try awarded the 19 years and 170-day Menoncello became the Championship’s youngest try-scorer, overtaking Keith Jarrett’s record from 1967.

“I found out [I was picked] the day he announced the team,” Menoncello told us. “He hadn’t said anything before then. It was such a great feeling to find that out.

“I pretty much remember all of [the try] as I’ve seen it so many times. I was just so excited to get the ball down in the in-goal area, but then it went to the TMO, and I was so worried that they would rule it out, but I had managed to stay infield. It was amazing.”


Since that day in Paris, Menoncello’s career has been up and down.

That was his only Italy appearance of that year’s Championship, though he returned to the team for two appearances in their June tour and all three of their November Test matches.

The Treviso native then featured in four of Italy’s 2023 Guinness Men's Six Nations matches and appeared set for inclusion in Crowley’s World Cup squad for France 2023.

However, while he scored his second Italy try in the World Cup warm-up away to Ireland, he also dislocated his left shoulder and tore a biceps, which ruled him out of a first World Cup.

On 30 December though, after four months of “boring” rehabilitation, he returned to the Benetton team and played 56 minutes of their 36-14 win over Zebre in the United Rugby Championship.

“I’m back to my best after four months of rehabilitation and I’ve managed to have some minutes for Benetton since then,” he said. “I’ve got used to being back on the pitch and I’m back in the national team as soon as I could have hoped after my injury.

“I was very emotional and incredibly nervous [coming back]. I wouldn’t say I was scared or worried about my shoulder, more that I was back to 100 percent. But after the first five minutes of being back on the field, it was how I always felt.”

The Azzurri return to France for Round 3 chasing their first win of the year, having opened with a 27-24 defeat to England and 36-0 loss to Ireland.

Menoncello started both matches in the centre, where he linked up with Benetton teammate Juan Ignacio Brex on both occasions.


He admits he prefers life in the centre, though is happy to play on the wing - where he will feature on Sunday - and he credits Brex with teaching him “pretty much everything I’ve learned about being a centre.”

In Lille they are likely to be up against France’s well-established centre pair of Gaël Fickou and Jonathan Danty.

“We know that they are a very physical pair which we both enjoy,” Menoncello said. “The only thing we must do is be ready to tackle lots because they are so direct and don’t necessarily try to spread the ball wide.

“The key will be to stop them quickly and not let them get across the gain line.”

Since their defeat in Dublin in Round 2, Italy coach Gonzalo Quesada has been hard at work looking back over both the matches.

Quesada is someone who knows French rugby well. Firstly, he played for Narbonne, Stade Français and Toulon, and then as a coach he was one of Marc Lièvremont’s France assistants when they won the 2010 Grand Slam, and later led Stade Francais to the Top 14 title.

“We’ve gone over the analysis of what we did in the first two rounds, especially against Ireland,” Menoncello said. “We looked at what we did well and what we did badly, and then worked on the technical points we want to go over for the match against France.

“Against Ireland we didn’t have enough possession. We did well in defence considering we only had 25 percent of the ball, so it could have been a lot worse. We managed to keep our concentration right to the end, otherwise it could have ended like our last two matches at the World Cup [96-17 v New Zealand; 60-7 v France].”


Italy are chasing a first win over France since 2013 and a first on French soil since they joined the Five Nations in 2000. The only time Italy have won in France came in 1997 when they triumphed 40-32 in Grenoble, five years before Menoncello’s birth.

Lille will be the third French city the teams have played in in four matches. Menoncello’s debut came at the Stade de France, and ended 37-10, then in the World Cup the sides met in Lyon where the host nation prevailed 60-7.

France will be aiming to continue their upturn in form after their 20-16 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. Another victory would mean they are still in contention for the Championship, despite their 38-17 loss to Ireland in Marseille on opening night.

“France are under a bit of pressure, but they are still very strong players who can create something out of nothing,” Menoncello said.

“We cannot expect an easy ride because France are still a fantastic side and they will be doing everything to win, so we have to do all we can to match them.

“The French fans give them so much and you really feel it on the pitch. I think the atmosphere in Lille will be like that in Paris, full of French fans cheering on their team for the whole of the match.”