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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Six years after losing his sight in one eye, Dublin's Ian McKinley set to make debut for Italy

Former Leinster man is in the Azzurri 23 for Saturday’s game against Fiji.

McKinley: rebuilt his career at Treviso.
McKinley: rebuilt his career at Treviso.
Image: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

THE REMARKABLE STORY of Ian McKinley is set to reach another massive milestone this weekend, with the Dubliner on course to make his debut for the Italian national rugby team.

McKinley, 27, has been named on the bench for Italy’s opening November international against Fiji in Catania.

If he features, the out-half will make history as the first player to line out in an international Test match wearing special protective goggles.

McKinley, who represented Ireland at U20s level, suffered a serious facial injury in a club rugby game in 2010, and was forced to retire the following year at the age of just 21 after losing the sight in his left eye.

He later came out of retirement and returned to professional rugby with Italian club Viadana, but at the time, the protective goggles which he wore were prohibited in Ireland, England and France, preventing the former Leinster man from making his way back to the very top level.

McKinley signed for Italian club Treviso in 2015 and after the IRFU joined a trial scheme to approve the eyewear, continued his journey with a fairytale return to the RDS to play a Pro12 match against his native Leinster in September 2016.

Azzurri coach Conor O’Shea included him in a training panel ahead of Italy’s summer Tests, and although McKinley did not make the final cut, he is part of the squad for the autumn series and in the matchday 23 for Saturday’s game.

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Niall Kelly

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