Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dublin-born out-half helps Azzurri to win over Fijians

Italy 19 Fiji 10

Fiji's Josua Tuisova tussles with Italy's Dean Budd. Photo: Getty Images
Fiji's Josua Tuisova tussles with Italy's Dean Budd. Photo: Getty Images

Nigel Whittaker

Ian McKinley came off the bench shortly after the hour mark and kicked a late penalty to help Italy end a nine-game losing streak as Fiji came up just short.

The former Leinster out-half became the first man to play in international rugby in specially manufactured goggles, having lost the sight in his left eye during a game with UCD seven years ago.

Italy's Mattia Bellini sets off on a charge. Photo: Getty Images
Italy's Mattia Bellini sets off on a charge. Photo: Getty Images

Conor O'Shea handed McKinley his international debut when he replaced Carlo Canna in the win over Ireland's opponents next weekend.

Canna had struck three penalties and converted Simone Ferrari's try early on.

Fiji's Ben Volavola kicked a penalty and his side went in level at 10-10 at half-time through Leone Nakarawa's converted try.

However, Italy edged ahead after the interval with two penalties from Canna, before McKinley fired over an insurance penalty to avenge their summer defeat by the Fijians.

Fiji's scrum-half Frank Lomani maintains possession. Photo: Getty Images
Fiji's scrum-half Frank Lomani maintains possession. Photo: Getty Images

It was Italy's first win since their historic victory over South Africa nearly a year ago.

Fiji, meanwhile, arrive in Dublin this week facing the prospect of lining out against a second-choice Ireland team desperate to make an impression.

"It's a fantastic story. He was knocked more so than any player and he had the balls to come back," Ronan O'Gara said of McKinley's remarkable journey.

"Professional sport is ruthless. Imagine how proud his family are today. It's something that he'll remember forever more."

Meanwhile, O'Gara also confirmed that the Canterbury Crusaders had been in contact about the Racing assistant coach moving to New Zealand.

"The horse has bolted with the story. The clubs are in communication," he said.

"There has been contact but it's a way of just wait and see. I'm really enjoying my time in Paris."

Irish Independent

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