A CARDIGAN rugby player will be featuring at the 2024 Guinness Six Nations tournament after being selected in Italy’s squad.

Stephen Varney – who hails from Rhoshill, near Cardigan, has retained his place in the national side as new head coach Gonzalo Quesada named his first competitive international squad. He took over the role after Kieran Crowley stood down in the aftermath of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

22-year-old Varney is a Welsh speaker who has followed in his dad Adrian Varney’s footsteps by playing rugby. Adrian is a former Neath and Aberavon flanker.

Stephen won the Welsh Schools Under-16s Cup for Ysgol y Preseli in 2017 and came through the junior ranks at Crymych RFC before the scrum-half was picked up by Gloucester Rugby, where he currently plays.

He chose to represent Italy at U20 level and made his senior debut for the Italian national side in the autumn of 2020 as a replacement against Scotland. He qualifies for Italy through his grandparents on his mother’s side. Varney currently has 24 senior caps.

Italy have named five uncapped players in the squad: Ross Vintcent, Mirco Spagnolo, Alessandro Izekor, Matteo Nocera and Luca Rizzoli.

Italy squad for the 2024 Guinness Six Nations:

Forwards: Pietro Ceccarelli, Danilo Fischetti, Matteo Nocera, Luca Rizzoli, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosuè Zilocchi, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Marco Manfredi, Giacomo Nicotera, Niccolò Cannone, Edoardo Iachizzi, Federico Ruzza, Andrea Zambonin, Lorenzo Cannone, Riccardo Favretto, Alessandro Izekor, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Ross Vintcent, Manuel Zuliani.

Backs: Alessandro Garbisi, Martin Page-Relo, Stephen Varney, Tommaso Allan, Paolo Garbisi, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Federico Mori, Marco Zanon, Pierre Bruno, Ange Capuozzo, Monty Ionae, Simone Gesi, Lorenzo Pani.

Italy will open their Six Nations campaign against England at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, February 3 at 2.15pm.

They will then face Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, February 11 at 3pm, France in Paris on Sunday, February 25 at 3pm, Scotland at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, March 9 at 2.15pm before their final game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, March 16 at 2.15pm. All kick off times are in UK time.