As he prepares to turn out for the World XV at Twickenham against the Barbarians, TRU columnist and Italy international Seb Negri pens his thoughts ahead of a special week, being back at Twickenham, plus he discusses the rest of 2023.
I think it is a big honour to be selected for the World XV. It’s an awesome opportunity to play with guys I have played against a lot, get a new experience and I am really grateful, as well as looking forward to it.
It’s not often you get called up to a World XV, especially to play against the Barbarians at Twickenham. It is going to be a special occasion. That is what rugby and life is about. It is just about taking these opportunities and making the most of them.
It is an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by. I spoke to Kieran Crowley [Italy's head coach] and he is all for it. He said you have got to do these things. This is what life is about and what rugby is about.
Being selected alongside Niccolo Cannone and Michele Lamaro, it is really good recognition of where Italian rugby is at the minute. The guys that have been selected obviously had good years, but we are playing in this World XV on behalf of all the Italian boys.
Results during the Guinness Six Nations didn’t go our way, but we were extremely close to upsetting a few teams. If you look over the last 12 to 18 months, I think we have made massive strides forward. We have got a real identity and, most importantly, getting that respect and credibility back within Italian rugby.
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It is very special. We are going to enjoy the week, take it all in and enjoy this experience. It’s surreal to be playing for Steve Hansen, a world-class coach alongside world-class players. Experiencing new coaching and the way people see the game and prepare for the game and picking other teammates’ brains. I think we will all learn a lot.
To play at Twickenham is always special. I have so many special memories there. Playing there with Hartpury and winning BUCS Super Rugby with all my friends is up there with my best-ever memories and I stand by going to university there as the best decision of my rugby career so far.
I would have to say that the last time I played at Twickenham against England in the Six Nations was one of my most special memories...for a lot of reasons.
The last time I played England I got a head knock. I spent four minutes sleeping on the floor and only regained consciousness when I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Ellis Genge saved my life when he took out my mouthguard. I was choking.
So to play at Twickenham again this year, against Ellis, that was pretty emotional and pretty special. That’s why I wanted to trade jerseys with him after that game and why that most recent game against England was an awesome memory that stands out.
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That moment in particular has been a big motivator to take on opportunities like the World XV when they come up. It was a really hard couple of weeks, waking up every day with headaches and struggling. It wasn’t easy.
It puts everything into perspective and makes you realise what’s important in life and what isn’t important and a reminder that rugby isn’t forever. In a blink of an eye, it can be over. That is just reality.
You start thinking more about your responsibilities to other people. It makes you appreciate what you have had, all the opportunities that you have been given and to make the most of everything that is given to you.
It has definitely changed my perspective and I feel like I have grown up a bit more after that and matured in a way. As much as it was a scary time for me, my family, my fiancé and my friends, I think it has made me a better person and I have learnt a lot from it.
It is strange but exciting to think we are at the end of this season. It was really positive for Benetton Treviso, and I feel as though we have made big steps forward.
We were a little disappointed with a few results in the United Rugby Championship, which could have gone either way and could have put us in the play-offs easily if we had been on the right side of things.
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Then in Europe, we made the Challenge Cup semi-finals, a big achievement, but we let ourselves down against Toulon. Of course, they won the tournament outright on Friday night, but I can’t help but think, what if?
Like with the national team, I feel that in Treviso we are putting more of that credibility and respect into Italian rugby. Next season. we have Malakai Fekitoa joining us. It is clearly a place that people are starting to look to in order to play to the highest standard.
I like to take one thing at a time, and my focus is on this next week, but I am definitely looking forward to this summer with Italy and preparing for the World Cup.
This is the best Italian environment I have been in since I started playing. We are all on the same page, we have a real identity now. We believe in what we are doing, and I believe we are getting more respect every time we step out onto the field.
Last year we beat Wales and Australia, and believe the next step now is to keep pushing, and getting results and there is lots to look forward to there. This summer there are some tough warm-up Tests against Scotland, Ireland, Romania and Japan, then a tough pool, but anything can happen.
Forwards: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors and Scotland), Niccolò Cannone (Benetton Rugby and Italy), Elliot Dee (Dragons Rugby and Wales), Allan Dell (Glasgow Warriors and Scotland), Harry Hockings (Tokyo Sungoliath), Wyn Jones (Scarlets Rugby, Wales, British & Irish Lions), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors and Scotland), Michele Lamaro (Benetton Rugby and Italy), Viliame Mata (Edinburgh Rugby and Fiji), Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby and Italy), Api Ratuniyarawa (London Irish and Fiji), Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
Backs: Bryn Hall (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Adam Hastings (Gloucester Rugby and Scotland), Israel Folau (Urayasu D-Rocks and Tonga), Marika Koroibete (Saitama Wild Knights and Australia), Ngani Laumape (Kobelco Kobe Steelers and New Zealand), Sbu Nkosi (Vodacom Bulls and South Africa), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets Rugby and Wales), Nick Phipps (Green Rockets Tokatsu and Australia), Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears and Tonga), Semi Radradra (Bristol Bears and Fiji)