Gloucester Rugby scrum half Stephen Varney has been ruled out from earning his first international cap after testing positive for Covid-19.
The 19-year-old has been a revelation for Gloucester Rugby since rugby started and his from earned the diminutive Welsh-born number nine a call-up to join the Azzurri senior squad ahead of the autumn internationals.
However today the Italian Rugby Federation confirmed Varney has tested positive for coronavirus having linked up with the 34-man squad in Rome on Monday, but he is the only one in the squad, which includes clubmate Jake Polledri, to do so meaning Italy will be able to resume their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin on 24 October.
The good news is Varney is asymptomatic meaning he is currently not feeling the ill effects of the virus.
The scrum half tested negative in his most rest with Gloucester before flying out to Italy.
Varney’s involvement with Italy is a fascinating story, but not a particularly new one with the Pembrokeshire born number nine having come through the youth ranks with the Azzurri.
He actually earned a man-of-the-match award against Wales back in January in a 17-7 victory in the U20s Six Nations at Colwyn Bay.
Varney comes from a small hamlet of Rhoshill, a few miles south of Cardigan. He attended Ysgol y Preseli, in Crymych, winning the Welsh Schools U16s Cup with them in 2017, but Stephen Lorenzo Varney, to give him his full name, qualifies for Italy through his mother Valeria, with both her parents born in Italy.
Varney’s Italian and Welsh heritage dates back to his great-grandfather who was an Italian prisoner of war at a camp near Newcastle Emlyn. After the Second World War he stayed on and lived on a farm with his wife.
Varney’s talent was spotted by Hartpury College, and like so many before him he then stepped up into the Cherry and White’s ranks.
Varney’s former Gloucester team-mate Callum Braley and Zebre’s Marcello Violi are now likely to compete for the starting scrum-half berth at the Aviva Stadium.
England face Italy in Rome in their final Six Nations game on October 30. Before that England face the Barbarians on October 25 with six Gloucester players called up to Eddie Jones’ experimental side which is missing any players involved in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs.
England regulars Willi Heinz and Jonny May will be joined by uncapped trio Ollie Thorley, Jack Clement and Lewis Ludlow, while hooker Jack Singleton has also been called up.
Uncapped speedster Louis Rees Zammit has been called up by Wales and standout centre Chris Harris has been included in Scotland’s squad.