Six Nations 2024: Louis Lynagh provides instant impact as Italy deliver against Scotland

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Louis Lynagh’s try-scoring Test debut in Italy’s rare Six Nations home win over Scotland marked the end of an emotional four weeks for the wing, but perhaps the start of something more poignant for a nation.

Would it be England, Italy or Australia?

That was the question surrounding Lynagh – born in Treviso, nurtured in London and son of Wallaby legend Michael – since his breakthrough season at Harlequins when he starred in their Premiership final success in 2021.

Although called up to an England training camp later in 2021, he was not capped and in February this year the 23-year-old signalled the start of a new chapter by announcing his departure from Quins.

Lynagh picked Benetton in his mother’s native Italy, where his father Michael played from 1991-1996.

Two days after his announcement the winger was named in the Italy squad, and a few weeks after that the Azzurri won their first home game since beating Ireland in 2013.

“He has had a big few weeks,” former England wing Chris Ashton told Six Nations Rugby Special. “For him to get his first cap, score a try and be on the end of a win like that against Scotland in Rome is a good week.”

The flying winger raced on to Paolo Garbisi’s grubber kick to score a second-half try before throwing the ball into the stands to signal his arrival on the international stage.

The try sent the packed Stadio Olimpico wild as it brought Italy within striking distance of a first win in 14 games against Scotland.

An emotional Lynagh waved to his fatherexternal-link as he was coming down the Olimpico steps to meet him post-game, with his mum beaming from ear to ear.

“I am looking at them now, dad is almost in tears,” Lynagh told ITV Sport after the game.

“I don’t have any words right now – one try and one win, I might retire.

“It’s an amazing thing we have been working towards all week. There was something in the air and I felt like we could win.”

‘Italy are going to get better’

None of the class of 2013 remain in the squad and this is a new era for Italian rugby under the stewardship of head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

The Argentine took over from Kieran Crowley after Italy’s dismal World Cup campaign, in which they crashed out in the group stage after shipping 96 points to New Zealand and 60 against France.

Italy conceded 22 tries in last year’s Six Nations and their place in the championship was again called into question.

But they have only leaked 13 after five games this term as Quesada has tightened the defence while continuing to promote attacking rugby.

Garbisi’s injury-time penalty hit the post to deny Italy a first Six Nations victory in France in round three – otherwise the Azzurri would be fourth in the table and eyeing three successive wins.

Lynagh, meanwhile, will be part of Benetton’s exciting young backline next season which includes 21-year-old Tommaso Menoncello, one of the Azzurri’s standout players this campaign.

This season, Benetton are two points off the top four places in the United Rugby Championship (URC) and proving a challenge for every side.

Former Scotland captain John Barclay says Benetton’s development reflects the progress of Italian rugby.

“You look at what Benetton are doing in the URC and really climbing up there, and you look at the quality they have got and the style they are trying to play, and you can see their potential,” Barclay told BBC’s Rugby Union Daily.

Success this year has not just been limited to the senior side.

After finishing third and fourth in the past two campaigns, Italy Under-20s continue to thrive against the northern hemisphere heavyweights with wins over France and Scotland in this year’s tournament.

“You look at the under-20s coming through having beaten France,” Barclay added.

“They have got a really strong group and that is the concern for Wales and Scotland.

“Italy are going to get better and continue to get better because they have a depth of young talent coming through, which I don’t think Scotland or Wales have coming through from the under-20s.”

Number eight Ross Vintcent is another 21-year-old with a high ceiling in blue. The Exeter back row supplied a barnstorming late run to set up Stephen Varney’s match-winning score.

Still technically employed as a Domino’s delivery driver,external-link the South African native wanted to be part of the exciting Italian project.

Italy’s youthful squad now travel to Cardiff looking to remain undefeated for three games in a row for the first time in their Six Nations history.

The start of a golden era? Only time will tell.

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