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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 19 January, 2019

McKinley in line for Dublin return as out-half included in O'Shea's extended Six Nations squad

The 28-year-old has been named in Italy’s 34-man panel for their pre-championship training camp.

McKinley made his Italy debut against Fiji in November.
McKinley made his Italy debut against Fiji in November.
Image: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

IAN MCKINLEY HAS BEEN named in Italy’s extended squad for the forthcoming Six Nations, meaning the Dublin-born out-half could come up against the country of his birth on the second weekend of the championship.

The 28-year-old has been included in Conor O’Shea’s 34-man panel ahead of Italy’s opening game against England in Rome following his debut appearance in November.

McKinley, who was left blinded in his left eye by a team-mate’s stud in a training ground accident six years ago, came off the bench to make his international bow during Italy’s 19-10 win over Fiji and made further appearances against Argentina and South Africa.

The former Leinster 10 has featured 11 times in the Pro14 for Benetton Treviso this season, scoring 49 points, and will be hopeful of being involved when O’Shea whittles his squad down for the campaign opener on 4 February.

Italy then visit Dublin in round two of the championship, where, if involved, McKinley would make a remarkable return to the city of his birth to play against former team-mates and his former Leinster head coach, Joe Schmidt.

McKinley, who represented Ireland at U20 level, was forced to retire in 2011 at the age of just 21 but later came out of retirement and returned to professional rugby with Italian club Viadana.

At the time, the protective goggles 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.

Ian McKinley kicks a penalty McKinley has three international points to his name. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

The Azzurri squad is again captained by the ever-present, and ever-brilliant, Sergio Parisse while Leonardo Sarto of Glasgow and Toulouse hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini are among those included.

There is one uncapped player in the panel as O’Shea rewards 22-year-old Bristol-born flanker Jake Polledri with a first call-up having impressed in the Premiership with Gloucester this season.

Having previously represented Italy U20, Polledri qualifies to play for the Azzurri through his grandmother, while Maxime Mbanda, George Biagi and Tommaso Allan all return from injury.

“The exciting aspect in this group is the number of options we are developing and the choices we now have available,” said O’Shea.

“We must continue to build depth and we are aware of having to improve, but we have made important progress compared to a year ago.

“I am aware that we will be judged on the results but we all know the level of play we will face and the challenges that await us in every game starting by playing the second and third best teams in the world rankings in the space of six days in the first two rounds.”

The 34-man squad will travel to Rome for a training camp, where they will be joined by young Benneton props Marco Riccioni and Cherif Traore, who will train with the group.

A final 31-man squad will be named after that training camp from 21-24 January.

Italy squad: Simone Ferrari, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Quaglio (all Benetton), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre); Luca Bigi (Benetton), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse), Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre); George Biagi (Zebre), Dean Budd, Marco Fuser, Federico Ruzza, Alessandro Zanni (all Benetton); Renato Giammarioli, Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Giovanni Licata (Fiamme Oro), Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn (all Benetton), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais), Jake Polledri (Gloucester); Edoardo Gori, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Ian McKinley (Benetton), Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi (Zebre); Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani (Zebre); Tommaso Benvenuti, Jayden Hayward (Benetton): Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow).

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