Tebaldi’s family affair

For Tito Tebaldi, motivation has never been lacking, with a rugby passion that starts at home.

For Tito Tebaldi, motivation has never been lacking, with a rugby passion that starts at home.

The Benetton scrum-half, who will start for the Azzurri in Saturday’s warm-up clash with Russia, now finds himself within touching distance of a first World Cup campaign having established himself as Italy’s number one during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.

That would allow him to emulate his uncle Daniele, his childhood hero and a former Italy international, in playing at a World Cup.

Tebaldi explained: “Being compared to my uncle is what has been motivating me throughout my career by wanting to surpass him.

“I am sure this is not seen as a form of disrespect by him, as in our family we are very competitive, and I am sure he is happy to hear this from me.

“One of the things that I had to do in order to surpass him is to play in at least one World Cup, which is still a goal for me, but it is something that I am looking forward to achieving very soon.”

Tebaldi’s career path has not always been easy. He first broke into the national side in 2009 and established himself as Italy’s first choice scrum-half in the Championship the following year.

He and Edoardo Gori battled for that role over a number of seasons, but in 2014 it looked as though his international career had ended as he dropped out of contention.

Tebaldi spent three years in the international wilderness, before coming back into the fold in 2017 under Conor O’Shea.

And it was during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations that Tebaldi truly re-established himself at the highest level, notably with a fantastic display against Ireland.

Now, he is battling for a place in the 31-man squad that travels to Japan, and starts in a strong side against Russia in Italy’s lone warm-up match on home soil.

Tebaldi is expecting a tough challenge from the Russians, who are preparing for their second World Cup appearance.

He added: “The match against Russia will be the only one we play in Italy, so we have some extra motivation to do well.

“I have only played against them once with Italy and as they are an eastern European team we know that they will be a very physical squad, just like the Georgian team we faced in November, and that they have some very quick three-quarters that are used to playing rugby sevens.

“We expect a bit of everything from them, but our forwards will be very much prepared to face them. We will have to know that their defence can be very dangerous, but we are equipped to do well, and we know that this test will be useful to do as well as we can at the World Cup.”