In his latest column for Talking Rugby Union, Italy’s Seb Negri talks about life in lockdown with Benetton, what to expect from the Pro14 on its return and preparing for international duty.
Being stuck in London at the beginning of lockdown wasn’t easy, but I came back to Italy and had to do a 14-day quarantine period.
That wasn’t great, but I was very lucky that the club sorted me out with a watt bike and bits and pieces so I could keep training while I was in lockdown. I have been on an individual programme to slowly build back up whether that be running or working in the gym.
Every week on a Monday, you now come in and you get your testing done. You have to wear masks everywhere around the club and respect the rules of the government, but as a club, we have all worked hard.
It has been a very strange time for everyone. I think every rugby player would share the same opinion as me that you take a step back and realise how lucky we are and how fortunate we are to play the game we love. I guess if you look at the positives, I have given my body a good rest and I am ready to start up again so we’re really looking forward to getting back into it and doing what we enjoy.
The last couple of weeks have been tough and intense in terms of pre-season. Last week, we had a little hit-out against each other in an inter-squad game just to get the bodies used to that contact area again so that was very beneficial.
Everyone will be a little bit rusty to begin with, I think. If you have watched a lot of the Super Rugby, at the beginning, it was a little rusty and even in the Gallagher Premiership, there were a lot of penalties and things like that so I think adapting back will take a little bit of time.
Saying that, the way we have been training, the intensity we have been training at and the heat we have been training under here in Italy, has been immense so hats off to the whole squad. We have really been positive and the next couple of games will be an opportunity for everyone to sort of enjoy a little hit-out again.
We see these two Zebre games as very, very important, but also to build for next season so I think everyone will get a hit-out over the next two games.
We will look at the games to hopefully build some momentum. We want to finish the season strong and derby games are always really important, not only for our clubs, but for international selection so you can put your hand up. All the boys are super excited and looking forward to playing again.
I think you can expect massive, physical battles for the next few weeks! Teams will want to bounce back and get into their stride again especially when it comes to derbies, but each side will also be keeping an eye on next season.
Even in the inter-squad game, we played at the empty stadium and that was very strange in itself and I am guessing the derbies will be pretty similar. However, we know we have got a job to do and derbies are always very physical battles and there will be those individual battles too which will add to that intensity. Everyone wants the bragging rights!
You have got to make sure your mental approach to the game is important so we have been focusing on that and haven’t really focused on their being no crowd and things like that.
Obviously, it would have been fantastic to have people watching us again, but we need to focus on ourselves because we have a job to do for the club and for the supporters. We are excited to get back out there and do what we love after very strange and unsettling times, especially here in Italy. Coronavirus hit us hard, so it is hopefully about putting some smiles on the supporters faces again.
We have already actually had a couple of international camps to get the squad back together again. That’s had its own intensity as well and the intensity Franco Smith has brought into the Italian set-up has made it pretty tough! Balancing that with the Benetton stuff has been really hard, but the body is feeling good.
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Always a privilege representing my country and this jersey. Thanks for all the messages and support over the last few weeks. We unite together as a country at this time and look forward to what lies ahead ?????????? E’ sempre un privilegio rappresentare il mio paese ed indossare questa maglia. Grazie a tutti per i messaggi ed il supporto delle ultime settimane. Uniamoci come paese in questo momento di difficoltà nella speranza che passi presto???? #guinnesssixnations #ItalRugby #Insieme #Grateful #Blessed @italrugby
After these derby games, I think we will have a week off and begin a one-week camp with the Italy side. We will then start focusing on finishing the Six Nations campaign with games against Ireland and England before looking forward to those November games so there is lots of rugby to be played, but that’s why we enjoy what we do.
Seb was talking to TRU's Chris Heal