Zimbabwe-born star Negri relishing second Rugby World Cup dance with Italy

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TREVISO, ITALY - AUGUST 25: Sebastian Negri of Italy during Italy Team's Run on August 25, 2023 in Treviso, Italy. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Federugby via Getty Images)

Harare – Italy flanker Sebastian Negri is relishing the prospect of representing his adopted nation in his second World Cup, ahead of their opening game against Namibia at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne on Saturday.

Marondera-born Negri is one of nine Italian players who will be making their second appearance as rugby’s global showpiece event after they took part in the last World Cup in Japan.

While the Azzurri begin another Rugby World Cup adventure with very few giving them any chance of making it to the knockout stages, Negri believes they squad have a self-belief to do well in the competition.

“I think this group, the environment, is the best I’ve been in. It’s a young, exciting group. It’s an ambitious group and all of us are on the same page,” Negri told reporters on Thursday.

“We wanted that respect and credibility back and I think we’re starting to get that now, and now it’s an opportunity to make the Italian people proud.”

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Negri was born in Zimbabwe, but at the age of eight his family were forced to flee their home at the height of the chaotic land reform programme.

They settled in Italy, where his father was born and Negri says he is proud to be representing his adopted nation and his family at the global stage.

“I’m not only representing myself, but I’m representing my Italian family, my Italian heritage. The Italian family were there for my family when we needed them a lot in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Every time I put on the jersey I’m not only representing myself but I’m representing them and I’m extremely proud of that.”

Sebastian Negri

Negri’s journey in rugby began at the age of six at Springvale House School in Zimbabwe before relocating to South Africa, where he attended Clifton Nottingham School.

He later earned a sports scholarship to Hilton College.

At the age of 18, he joined the Academy of the South African Natal Sharks, eventually moving on to play in the Currie Cup after being offered a spot with Western Province.

Thanks to his Milanese father’s roots and his evident talent, Negri earned his first cap for the Italian national team at just 19 years old during the Junior World Cup in 2013.

After nine appearances for the U20 team, he continued his career with the Emerging Italy squad before he earned his first two caps with the Italian senior team in June, 2016.

In the summer of 2017, the forward made his first move to Europe, donning the white and green colors of Benetton.

He has also become a pivotal player for Italy, participating in two matches during the 2019 World Cup in Japan and accumulating 48 caps for Italy to date.

After their opening game against Namibia on Saturday, Italy face Uruguay, New Zealand and hosts France in Pool A.

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