The Italian youngster talks through his progress through the rugby ranks

Zebre and Italy U20 back-rower Antoine Koffi

Date of birth 15 January 1999 Born Mondovi Club Zebre Country Italy Position No 8

When did you first get involved in rugby?

I started playing aged five with Amatori Parma. My parents took me and what I liked most when I started was the environment and my team-mates.

What other sports did you play growing up?

I did some judo aged four before joining my first club.

Who were your childhood heroes?

I never had a real idol or reference when I was a kid, but I was looking at my senior club mates to get inspiration and improve myself.

What positions have you played?

I was an outside-centre in my early playing years before moving to No 8, which is my current position.

What are your strengths?

Carrying the ball forward and using the gaps in the defence.

Talk us through your progress to Italy U20…

I joined the FIR U18 preparation centre in Remedello, near Brescia, and played for Italy U17, then advanced to the U18 squad the following year, even though I underwent some knee surgery in the same season.

In 2017-18 I was a National Academy member and was selected in the U20 squad, playing against Wales and Scotland in the Six Nations before making my way to the U20 World Cup.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

All the coaches I’ve worked with had a serious influence on my rugby.

What are your goals for the rest of 2019?

Now the Six Nations is over, it’s improving our final positioning in the Junior World Championship (Italy finished eighth in 2018). From an individual perspective, I’d like to get more opportunities for Zebre in the Pro14.

What do you do away from rugby?

As I’m focused on being a better player, I’m totally committed to my rugby career. Rugby is the main focus of my life.

RW VERDICT: Big things are expected of this back-rower. At 6ft 1in and 16st 10lb, he puts his size to good use as a ball-carrier and Italy will need that power at the Junior World Cup in June, where their group contains Australia, England and Ireland.

This article originally appeared in the May 2019 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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