The son of an Olympic sailor, Michele Lamaro was born to be a skipper.
Dad Gianluca represented Italy at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games but now it is his son flying the flag on the international scene after he was named as his country’s new rugby captain.
Despite having only won seven senior caps, 23-year-old Lamaro has been entrusted to lead Italy forward into the Autumn Nations Series by new head coach Kieran Crowley, taking over from hooker Luca Bigi.
A powerful back-rower, impressive on both sides of the ball and equally adept at No.8 or on the flank, Lamaro has excelled at club level and was named as a co-captain of Benetton ahead of the United Rugby Championship season.
Although he only made his senior debut for his country against France in November 2020, Lamaro has plenty of international captaincy experience behind him.
Kieran Crowley names Michele Lamaro as his new Italy captain
His leadership credentials were earmarked early as a teenager having led Italy’s Under-17s, Under-18s and Under-20s sides.
Lamaro’s first task is a daunting one, a fixture against New Zealand to kickstart their Autumn Nations Series campaign on November 6 before a South American double header as games against Argentina and Uruguay follow in successive weeks.
Italy were due to travel to play the All Blacks in the southern hemisphere this summer but complications surrounding the pandemic put paid to those plans, leaving the Azzurri without any summer action for the second successive year.
Lamaro is yet to make it to New Zealand but grew up idolising All Black legend Richie McCaw, a supreme skipper and back-row who won two Rugby World Cups and was World Rugby’s player of the year three times, so who better to model your game on.
South Africa, the Rugby World Cup 2019 winners and conquerors of Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions this summer, are officially World Rugby’s No.1 ranked side but New Zealand, fresh from a 104-14 demolition of the USA, are still the best team going, according to Lamaro.
“I have never been to New Zealand, but that culture fascinates me,” said Lamaro, who started at No.8 in all five of Italy’s 2021 Guinness Six Nations matches.
“The ranking does not matter; they are the best in the world.
“There is also the balance of games won-lost to prove it, close to 80 percent.”
Five years ago, New Zealand were in Rome and Lamaro, who grew up just ten minutes from the Stadio Olimpico, was merely a spectator, a year later he was part of the Under-20s side that lost 68-26 to the Baby Blacks in the Junior World Cup in Georgia.
Lamaro crossed for a try in defeat on that day and it is likely he will be reunited with the man who opened the scoring for New Zealand in the same game, Will Jordan, fresh from his hat-trick against the USA.
He added: “I grew up in Aurelio, ten minutes from the stadium, so it will be a special occasion for me [captaining against New Zealand].
“Also because not everyone is lucky enough to play such a match. I was in the Monte Mario stands in 2016, when Tommy Boni made his debut in blue and also scored a try for them [in a 68-10 defeat].
“And I have a precedent with the Under-20s, at the World Cup in Georgia in 2017. Then my reference as a player was Richie McCaw.”
Lamaro followed his brother Pietro into rugby at Unione Sportiva Primavera before earning a move to Lazio and then Petrarca, where he became the youngest star to be named player of the tournament in the Italian championship as his side claimed the 2017-18 Scudetto.
His performances caught the eye of then-Benetton coach Crowley who drafted him into the set-up in Treviso and now, barely three years later, the pair have been reunited at national level tasked with spearheading the new era of Italian rugby.