Some say rugby is either in your blood or it's not - and this could not be clearer than in the case of Viadana winger Matteo Pratichetti.
Pratichetti, part of Italy’s RBS 6 Nations squad, is every bit the pedigree player, with his uncle, Carlo having also played rugby for the Azzurri while his father, Oreste was also a professional player and coach.
Pratichetti, whose brother Andrea is another winger (for Rovigo), has wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps all his life – and it was seeing his uncle’s cap that set him off to international stardom.
“I was between 10 and 12 when my uncle played for Italy,” he said. “My parents would go and see him – and obviously I went along too. The atmosphere was incredible. I saw what it was like, and I wanted to be a part of it.
“My uncle’s achievement was a symbol for me of what I could become and that pushed me to always give it my all.
“Rugby players have to be ready to make huge physical sacrifices. The physical contact is the basis for the sport, so you have to be tough enough for that – and you need to start young.”
Pratichetti came through the ranks of his home town Rome’s UR Capitolina youth squad, after which he moved to Super 10 club Calvisano at 19 and won the Italian championship with them at the end of his debut season.
He got his first cap for Italy in 2004 against the All Blacks, a nerve-wracking experience he will not forget in a hurry.
He added: “Obviously we were playing one of the best teams in the world and on top of that there were more spectators there than anything I’d ever experienced before. It was a pretty scary day.”
“I was the youngest on the team. I was the little one. The others were great at showing me what it was all about. They helped me a lot.”
The ambitious wing moved on from there to play in head coach Pierre Berbizier’s 2007 Six Nations team, who also chose him for that year’s World Cup.
That faith was reflected by current Italy coach Nick Mallett who took him on tours of South Africa and Argentina summer tour in 2008: a year which also brought his second championship victory with Calvisano.
Despite sacrificing a modelling career to play rugby full-time, Pratichetti is still determined to steal the spotlight in the current Six Nations campaign and has no regrets sacrificing the chic of the catwalk for the camaraderie of the changing room
“I want to shine this year,” he said. “It would be nice to get myself noticed.
“The thing that makes you a rugby player at heart isn’t anything physical. This sport has a whole ethos behind it. It appeals to me and my family because of these values.
“You need ambition to get to my level. But although that’s fundamental to success, it’s not what makes you a rugby player.
“And it’s not to do with money or vanity either. These are the last things a rugby player thinks about.
“Rugby’s a team sport where you get the opportunity to share emotional experiences with your fellow players, and you can enjoy the satisfaction that brings whether you play at a national level or just as a hobby.
“It brings with it a whole culture of courage and loyalty and friendship – these are the main principles of the sport – and it’s these things that make people want to do it, that made me sure it was the right career for me.”