FORMER Crymych RFC player Stephen Varney made his international debut off the bench for Italy in their opening Autumn Series international against Scotland in Florence on Saturday.

A first international cap in Italy’s 28-17 defeat tops off a remarkable tale for Varney, if not one to frustrate some Welsh fans who question him being overlooked by his native country.

The 19-year-old, from Rhoshill, just outside Cardigan and who attended Ysgol y Preseli, is the son of former Neath and Aberavon flanker Adrian Varney – but qualifies for Italy through his mother Valeria.

And while studying sports science at Hartpury College, the scrum half was offered a place with the Gloucester RFC Academy.

Despite this, he was overlooked by Welsh Under-20s selectors so jumped at the chance when Italy offered him the same opportunity, and ironically was man of the match when the Azzuri beat their hosts in Colwyn Bay in January.

And following lockdown, he featured regularly in the Gloucester first team and caught the eye with some superb Premiership Rugby displays.

It prompted calls for Welsh selectors to consider him, but instead it was the Italian senior side who pounced and Varney was included in their squad for their outstanding Six Nations games with Ireland and England.

Unfortunately, he contracted the coronavirus which scuppered any chance of involvement, but has now fully recovered and was able to take his place on the bench on Saturday.

And midway through the second half he came on to the pitch.