pierro gritti
Piero Gritti has embarked on a new sporting and life adventure in France, Italy's next opponent on Friday night.

Currently in his first year of U20s rugby, Treviso-born Gritti can play as a lock and flanker - roles in which he's been used in the first two rounds against England and then against Ireland. In the latter, he scored a magnificent try that was sparked by a Marco Scalabrin counterattack.

"The try was actually 10% mine," admits Gritti. "I only picked up the ball and dunked it, Scalabrin did the real work. We were gutted to lose by a single point to the Irish, but I was happy with my first try in the tournament and for my country - both on a personal and team level. Positionally, I probably see myself more as a back rower at the moment, but I play where I'm needed, even as a number eight. At my club I'm seen more as a flanker and to get to international second I need to go down a certain path, and I need to improve several aspects of my game. For now, this being my first year in the U20s, I just want to live every experience to the fullest."

Piero's father, Andrea, was a second-row stalwart in the boiler rooms of Treviso and the national team. Together with the whole family, Andrea encouraged his son in the choice he made in the summer to leave Italy and join the Clermont academy.

"Last year I'd already started talking about the possibility of getting out of the youth ranks. I wanted to try my hand at the top level, even though I could have done another season in Benetton Treviso's U19 side," said Gritti. "The idea would have been an experience abroad or at a Serie A club in Italy. In December we started talking about France and in January the first sign of interest from Clermont came. "In February I played in the Trans-Alpine Youth Championship and then spent a few days seeing the club's facilities, and joined them in training. Shortly before the Six Nations U18 Festival, I officially signed. The goal is to aim to constantly improve myself and now I want to try to give it my all here in these three years."

The Trans-Alpine tournament is structured in two elite groups of ten teams, with the top sides going through to the semi-finals and finals. Clermont are currently second behind La Rochelle and ahead of Racing 92. Gritti's dad faced Montferrand (as they were then known) as a player, while Alessandro Troncon, another Treviso native and Italian rugby centurion, played there in the late 90s and at the beginning of the 2000s.

Gritti says: "I had the chance to talk to [Troncon] and he told me that he got on well there. Certainly those were different times compared to today. My whole family, however, supported me in this decision, which ultimately has been a life choice, not just a rugby one. In a short time, with two lessons a week, I learnt French.

"I live in a flat with a teammate close to the training facilities and the Omnisport centre in the city, where all the athletes - including those from the football team - hang out. I don't deny that it was a bit hard at first: I've always lived in Treviso and with my family, a bit of a carefree existence, where all my friends are. I look forward to seeing them all and giving them a hug after the France game, because we have a week off and I'll be headed home to Treviso."

Senior team rugby is the main goal for him at Clermont. They may not be the giants of yesteryear, but it remains one of the most important sporting institutions in France, equally notable for the bad luck that has haunted them in many finals as they are for the two Top 14 titles they won in 2010 and 2017, and the seven European finals and three triumphs in the Challenge Cup.

"For now I have only done some training with other teammates with the first team, but I hope to have more opportunities when the Six Nations is over," Gritti says. What the future will hold for me I don't know. For now I would like to do my best during these years in Clermont, where I can train as a player. When you are young it is easier to learn, so I think these will prove to be fundamental years. Of course, the hope of making my first-team debut is not lacking.

The focus, however, is now on Friday night's match in Beziers, against teammates and opponents he faces every week for his club.

"In the opening rounds, two of my teammates from Clermont played for France. I expect a very physical match, where above all the set-pieces will be important - a bit of a carbon copy of what happened against Ireland.

"But we want to continue to prove that we are not the team you saw against England. In Cork, we were able to react and fully prove our worth. Unfortunately in rugby, and in sport in general, games are won and lost, but we were there playing until the very end.

"The goal remains to constantly improve. We know it will be tough, because we face the world champions and they'll want to make up for the defeat in our recent friendly in Viadana."

France U20 v Italy U20, Friday 23rd February, 20:00 GMT, Stade Raoul-Barriere, Lille.