Mark Palmer speaks to the Italian forward following in the footsteps of his brother, Niccolo

Hotshot: Benetton back-row Lorenzo Cannone

Date of birth 28 January 2001 Born Florence Position Back-row Club Benetton Country Italy

When did you first play?

I started playing at the age of 12 with Bombo Rugby in Florence. My brother Niccolò is two years older and was already involved with the club. I went to watch one of his games and was instantly hooked.

I progressed to Florentia Rugby, then to the regional and national academies. Last year I played for Petrarca in the Top 10. This summer I began a full-time contract with Benetton, and Niccolò and I played our first competitive match together in the win over the Stormers.

Did you play other sports? 

Growing up, I did athletics, basketball and football. I was a striker and enjoyed it, but rugby is where I found my true passion.

Have you always been a back-row? 

Before I went into the academy, I was actually a centre. It is useful to have that experience, because it allows me to be confident in getting my hands on the ball and trying to contribute in attack, but I love the physical aspect of the back row. I can play seven and have been used at six, but my preference is for the No 8 shirt.

What are your strengths?

I love carrying the ball. It’s what I enjoy the most and believe I’m most good at.

My lineout work is something I’ve tried hard to improve – that’s where it’s great to have a brother who is a second-row! We have lived together for two years in Treviso, so I’m constantly picking his brains on what to do, how to position myself in the lineout.

Your rugby idol? 

Duane Vermeulen. He is an absolute beast of a ball-carrier; exactly the kind of player I strive to be. He’s so strong and powerful – when he gets going, there is no stopping him.

Growing up, I really enjoyed watching Marco Bortolami on TV. He was one of the best second-rows in the world for a number of years. It’s strange that he’s now coaching me at Benetton, but I love it.

What are your goals? 

This year I want to play as much as I possibly can for Benetton. Longer term, it’s a dream to play for Italy with my brother, but there is a long road ahead of me and I need to get my head down and work.

How do you relax? 

Niccolò and I love to fish, especially on the Tuscan coast. It’s relaxing to take the boat out and put yourself to the test.

RW Verdict: Cannone played for Italy A in November and Benetton are keen to give youngsters their head. In his brother Niccolò, Lorenzo has the ideal reference point for how to make the most of your ability and your opportunities.

This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s December 2021 edition.

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