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Inspiring comeback sees Ian McKinley kick crucial penalty on Italy debut

McKinley scored an important second half penalty as Italy earned their first Test win of 2017.

Ian McKinley McKinley lost permanent sight in his left eye six years ago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IAN MCKINLEY CAPPED a phenomenal weekend on Saturday afternoon as the Irish-born out-half kicked a crucial penalty on his international debut as Italy overcame Fiji to record their first Test win of 2017.

McKinley was born in Dublin and qualifies for the Azzurri under the residency rule. He lost permanent sight in his left eye six years ago, with today’s debut marking a remarkable turnaround for the 27-year-old as the first player to line out in an international Test match wearing special protective goggles.

Head coach Conor O’Shea called the player into his squad last month ahead of the November internationals, with McKinley admitting that it would be a privilege and an honour to finally make his international debut.

Gloucester Rugby v Benetton Treviso - European Challenge Cup - Pool One - Kingsholm Stadium McKinley pictured playing for Benetton Treviso. Source: David Davies

Italy went into the interval level with Fiji 10-10, but second half penalties from Carlo Canna and McKinley swung the tie in their favour at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.

The Dubliner was injured by a stray boot in 2011 before making his way back into international contention by working his way up through the lower leagues in Italy.

McKinley was called into action with just under half an hour to go in Catania before kicking an important penalty which maintained Italy’s lead and quashed a resurgent Fiji fightback after the break.

Following his long-awaited debut this weekend, he could potentially mark another milestone by featuring against Ireland when Italy make the trip to Dublin in February’s Six Nations.

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