Six Nations 2014: Mirco Bergamasco set for return to Italy squad 14 months after fracturing his kneecap
The 30-year-old utility back, now with Rovigo in his homeland, has stood out this season and earnt a recall from national coach Jacques Brunel
Friday 24 January 2014
Mirco Bergamasco's international career looked to be over after the 30-year-old fractured his kneecap during a Test against Australia in November of 2012.
Surgery and a long recovery period followed for the experienced Italian winger.
Bergamasco suffered another setback last summer when French club Racing Metro, whom he had joined in 2010 from rivals Stade Francais, decided not to offer him a contract extension.
While his move to Italian outfit Rovigo in July was a step back in his club career, it served as a platform to return to the national team just six months later.
"(Italy) coach Jacques Brunel told me that the door of the national team is always open and that it depended on me," Bergamasco said.
It is easy to see why Brunel included Bergamasco in his squad for the upcoming RBS 6 Nations.
"I told Mirco that if he managed to show he was at a level that was better than the average in the Italian league, then it wouldn't be difficult for me to call him up to the national side," Brunel said. "He is constantly among the best on the pitch for Rovigo and is one of the most experienced international players."
Bergamasco, who made his debut with the national team in 2002 and has earned 89 caps since, feels at home with Rovigo.
"Rovigo was the only serious and interesting proposal I had," he said. "I'm very happy to return to the origins of Italian rugby, the club that has the most passionate fans."
The Bergamasco family also have plenty of ties with Rovigo.
"My father played (rugby) at Rovigo," Bergamasco said. "The club house is full of his photos.
"My mother was born here and it's here where they got married.
"My grandmother lives 200 metres away from the stadium and she came to my unveiling.
"I've had to buy 20 season tickets for my family and had I known that, I would have included those in my contract!"
Bergamasco admits there is less pressure competing in Italy's top flight (the National Championship of Excellence) than in France.
"I kick every weekend," Bergamasco said. "As a centre, it's easier with less pressure. But at Rovigo I have found a quality group led by very capable coaches.
"The atmosphere in general is very professional, perhaps more than other clubs that I have played for in the past."
Bergamasco has been included in Brunel's squad as a winger although centre remains his ideal position.
"The important thing is to be a part of the group," Bergamasco said. "I'm always available for the national team.
"I will try to find more space and if possible, in the role that I feel more comfortable with. I am very happy and ready to give 100 per cent."
Bergamasco watched in frustration as Italy endured ups and downs in 2013.
For the second time in their history, the Azzurri won two games at the RBS Six Nations, including an historic victory over Ireland.
Defeats to South Africa and Samoa followed in the summer, however.
Italy began their November Tests with a heavy defeat (50-20) to Australia in Turin.
The Azzurri then beat Fiji 37-31 in Cremona and ended the year with a 19-14 loss to Argentina in Rome.
"It's always difficult to judge from outside," Bergamasco said. "I only say that the Tests in June and November serve as a preparation for the Six Nations and in the last tournament we did well."
Bergamasco will again team up with older brother Mauro, who returns to the Six Nations having been left out in last year's edition for technical reasons.
"We are hard working and we have never given up on the possibility of returning to the national team," Bergamasco said.
"We have overcome difficult times but we have always fought because that's how we are."
Italy begin the Six Nations against reigning champions Wales in Cardiff on February 1 before travelling to France one week later.
The Azzurri host Scotland on February 22 before facing Ireland in Dublin two weeks later.
Italy end the competition at home to England on March 15.
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Xabi Alonso to be quizzed before £18m Asier Illarramendi bid; Battle on for Rickie Lambert
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City, United want Gareth Bale
Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0 player ratings: Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla? Who stole the show at the Emirates Stadium?
Chelsea vs Manchester City player ratings: David Silva saves the day but which City star stole the show at Stamford Bridge?
Kim Sears 'swearing' outburst threatens to overshadow Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final win
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign