Matteo Minozzi is set to make his playing return after being named in Italy’s preliminary squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The electric full-back caught the eye in the 2018 Championship, scoring tries in four consecutive games – the first Italian player to achieve the feat.
That earned him a nomination for Player of the Championship, however he missed the entirety of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations due to a knee injury suffered at the start of the season.
He has not featured for club or country since suffering the injury 17 minutes into Zebre’s season opener in August.
However he is included in the 44-man preliminary squad named by Conor O’Shea, that will be led by Sergio Parisse.
The all-time record appearance-maker in the Championship captained the Azzurri in four of the five matches in 2019, missing only the defeat to Ireland.
Leonardo Ghiraldini took over the captain’s armband that day, and is named in the squad despite suffering a serious knee injury in the final game against France.
O’Shea said: “The announcement of this squad for the summer camps shows us how close we are to the incredible experience that awaits us in Japan in September, which is a big opportunity to take another step on our journey which aims to carry Italy to the summit of international rugby.
“This squad is a mix of young players and veterans, a truly electrifying combination.
“We have already had to make some difficult decisions and there will be some even harder ones over the summer.”
Returning players in the squad include Marcello Violi and Mattia Bellini, who both missed the entirety of the Guinness Six Nations.
And there are three uncapped players named in the squad, front-row pair Engjel Makelara and Marco Riccioni of Benetton and Gloucester scrum-half Callum Braley, all three of whom were part of the squad during the Championship without playing.
Italy will play four warm-up matches in the lead-up to the tournament including three clashes with Championship rivals Ireland, France and England.
They have been drawn in a pool with New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia and Canada, kicking off against the latter pair before taking on the Springboks and the All Blacks.
Italy preliminary squad
Simone FERRARI (Benetton Rugby) Andrea LOVOTTI (Zebre Rugby Club) Tiziano PASQUALI (Benetton Rugby) Nicola QUAGLIO (Benetton Rugby) Marco RICCIONI (Benetton Rugby) Cherif TRAORE’ (Benetton Rugby) Federico ZANI (Benetton Rugby) Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Zebre Rugby Club)
Luca BIGI (Benetton Rugby) Oliviero FABIANI (Zebre Rugby Club) Leonardo GHIRALDINI (Stade Toulousain) Engjel MAKELARA (Benetton Rugby)
Dean BUDD (Benetton Rugby) Marco FUSER (Benetton Rugby) Federico RUZZA (Benetton Rugby) David SISI (Zebre Rugby Club) Alessandro ZANNI (Benetton Rugby)
Renato GIAMMARIOLI (Zebre Rugby Club) Marco LAZZARONI (Benetton Rugby) Giovanni LICATA (Zebre Rugby Club) Maxime MBANDA’ (Zebre Rugby Club) Sebastian NEGRI (Benetton Rugby) Sergio PARISSE (Stade Français) (captain) Jake POLLEDRI (Gloucester) Abraham STEYN (Benetton Rugby) Jimmy TUIVAITI (Zebre Rugby Club)
Callum BRALEY (Gloucester) Guglielmo PALAZZANI (Zebre Rugby Club) Tito TEBALDI (Benetton Rugby) Marcello VIOLI (Zebre Rugby Club)
Tommaso ALLAN (Benetton Rugby) Carlo CANNA (Zebre Rugby Club) Ian MCKINLEY (Benetton Rugby)
Tommaso BENVENUTI (Benetton Rugby) Michele CAMPAGNARO (Wasps) Tommaso CASTELLO (Zebre Rugby Club) Luca MORISI (Benetton Rugby) Marco ZANON (Benetton Rugby)
Mattia BELLINI (Zebre Rugby Club) Giulio BISEGNI (Zebre Rugby Club) Angelo ESPOSITO (Benetton Rugby) Jayden HAYWARD (Benetton Rugby) Matteo MINOZZI (Zebre Rugby Club) Edoardo PADOVANI (Zebre Rugby Club)