Italy under-20s player Jake Polledri hopes to succeed where his father and fellow back-row Peter once came up just short – and eventually make the step up from age grade rugby to senior international honours.
However, Polledri’s immediate focus is on helping his side perform well on home soil in next month's World Rugby U20 Championship.
Bristol born and bred, Polledri junior qualifies for Italy through his grandmother, who hails from a village near Rome. He played in all bar one of the games in the RBS Under-20 6 Nations earlier this year and retains his place in the Italy squad for the World Championship.
Italy have been drawn in Pool B alongside last year’s beaten finalists South Africa, Australia and Samoa.
Polledri knows from first-hand experience how tough it is to play against the South Africans, having come up against some of the country’s top provincial sides while on an Italy under-19 tour there last summer.
“South Africa are always renowned for being massive and skilful so we’ll have to prepare well physically and mentally. We won two and lost two on that tour and I’d imagine some of the guys we faced then will be picked for the U20s World Cup," Polledri said.
“It’s a tough group, all round, and no doubt we’ll be underdogs. But I think we showed in the last two games of the Six Nations that we play a lot better at home. The support we get is awesome.
“Although the France scoreline might have suggested otherwise (they lost 40-10 in San Dona), anyone who was at that game would have seen how we stepped things up quite a bit. And then, against Wales, we turned in our best performance only to lose to a penalty try and conversion with the last play of the game when we’d been reduced to 13 men.
“It was great to finish the Six Nations on a positive note even though we narrowly lost. To run a Welsh side so close, who’d beaten England – the benchmark team at his level – was really encouraging.
“I wouldn’t really like to say how far we can go or where we’ll finish in the under-20s World Cup but hopefully those last two games will stand us in good stead.”
Jake’s father Peter, a Bristol legend who made 462 appearances in a 15-year career with the West Country club, captained England at under-23 level but was never capped by the senior team after being considered too small.
Burgeoning business interests also prevented him pursuing an opportunity to play for Italy, his mother Louisa’s birthplace, back in the mid-80s, but he now takes enormous pride in watching his son play for the Azzurrini.
“We’ll all be going across from Bristol to watch him this summer; it’s brilliant what he’s done,” Polledri senior said. “My Mum is as pleased as punch to have one of her grandsons represent Italy.”
With all of the matches being played at the home grounds of Italy’s leading club sides, the U20 Championship provides the perfect shop window for players wishing to push for higher honours.
No less than 26 players have graduated from the under-20 ranks to the Italian national side since 2008, with two, Giulio Bisegni and Michele Visentin (pictured right), making the step up in the 2015 Six Nations.
Polledri is no different from any of his team-mates in wanting to make it at the highest level.
“With it being in Italy all of the Italian Federation will be there watching the games so it is a chance to impress,” said Polledri.
“It’s a big step up to the senior level but people do make it whether that’s straight away or a couple of years down the line.
“All you can do is just try to play well and hope the opportunity comes your way, one day.”
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