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In the Spotlight: Paolo Garbisi

In the Spotlight: Paolo Garbisi

In the Spotlight: Paolo Garbisi

We’ve all had a glimpse of what he can do on the international stage, but the Autumn Nations Cup will be the perfect opportunity for Paolo Garbisi to really show off what he is made of.

The 20-year-old was a shining light in an Italian side that went down 50-17 to Ireland when the Six Nations resumed last month, with the fly-half scoring a late try to cap off an eye-catching debut.

The Benetton man has been a standout performer as he has come up through the ranks for both club and country, and didn’t look out of place when given his first senior cap at the Aviva Stadium.

With matches against Scotland, Fiji and France to come this month, Garbisi could be the man to steal the show for Franco Smith’s side, with his creativity and imagination giving his side a dynamism with the ball in hand.

The menace from Venice 

Garbisi was born in Venice, starting his rugby journey at Mogliano in Treviso. And it was on the pitches of the northeastern province where he began to make his name, trying to emulate his childhood idol Dan Carter.

It didn’t take long for him to get recognition on a national scale, with regular eye-catching performances in the Italian junior ranks, before a match-winning performance over England at the inaugural Under-18 Six Nations Festival in 2018.

The influential fly-half notched 14 points in a 32-30 historic victory for the Azzurrini, and highlighted the talent that not only he possesses, but also the next generation of Italian players.

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From there Garbisi continued his progress up the age groups, and has been a standout performer in the last two Under-20 Six Nations, registering almost half of his country’s points in their three matches in this year’s competition.

England aren’t the only side to have felt the fly-half’s wrath in the embryonic stages of his career, a fantastic solo try against Scotland at the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championships was another moment that made us all stand up and take notice.

Benetton and beyond 

Garbisi only made his Benetton debut two months before he made his bow for his country, as he was named in the starting XV for the Guinness PRO14 clash with Zebre.

Two more starts for the Italian side have followed this campaign, with promising showings against big-hitters Leinster and Ulster, including a try to his name against the latter.

Before then, he was representing Petrarca in the Italian Top12, scoring 77 points in his nine appearances for the club last season.

Those performances were enough to convince Italian head coach Franco Smith that he was deserving of a place in his squad for the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, and he doesn’t look to be disappointing so far.

As debuts go, they don’t get much tougher than facing Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, but Garbisi rarely looked out of place in the 80 minutes in Dublin, with the fly-half always looking to provide a spark when his team had possession.

And that finally paid off in the dying seconds against Andy Farrell’s side, as his fleet-footedness saw him leave a number of tacklers in his wake before touching down for a debut score.

He may have only had a handful of matches in the spotlight so far, but the 20-year-old looks destined to be on the international scene for many years to come, and the Autumn Nations Cup could be the making of Garbisi.

The Italians will fancy their chances in their opening round clash with Scotland on Saturday, and the flair and verve from fly-half could make all the difference in securing the victory in Florence.

He owes it all to Owen 

Despite not scoring, Garbisi’s second international cap may have been more memorable than his first, as he came up against another one of his role models in the rugby world.

Because as well as Carter, the Venetian has eyes on England’s current no.10 as someone to base his game on, with a win at all costs mentality instilled in his game.

“I am a player who really likes to vary the game, to try to be a little unpredictable,” Garbisi said.

“Since I was little my idol has always been Dan Carter. Currently the player that I like the most and that inspires me is Owen Farrell, who is truly an idol for his competitive nastiness.”

And that hatred of defeat was apparent after making his break in the international game, where even his late debut try didn’t leave him satisfied.

“My performance was negative, like that of the rest of the team, and certainly a try when the time is up, cannot cancel the rest of the time,” he said.

“There were a lot of emotions before the game because I was about to make a dream come true, but honestly I would have wanted a different outcome for the game. I was hoping for a better debut.

“During the match we didn’t find large spaces, so when I caught a glimpse of one, I slipped into it and all in all it went well.

“But I would like to reiterate that this final score does not shift the assessment on the overall performance by one iota.”

That determination to improve only bodes well for Italy in the future, because this young talent looks likely to be around for a long time, and we should all enjoy the ride.

With Smith opting for youth ahead of experience with his recent squad selection, the Azzurri will be much of an unknown prospect for many sides in the Autumn Nations Cup, and their new brand of dynamic free-flowing rugby will make for some excellent watching.

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