Louis Lynagh: ‘Leaving Harlequins is sad but whirlwind Italy experience has been amazing’

Italy's Louis Lynagh (centre) lines up with team-mates before the Guinness Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy
Lynagh made his debut for Italy against Scotland in Rome on Saturday - PA Wire/Adam Davy

Speaking with his father, Michael, before Louis Lynagh followed in his footsteps by becoming a Test rugby player, the great Wallaby pointed out a coincidence that seemed like a good omen. “He said nine is his lucky number and today is the 9th of March,” Lynagh says with a smile, speaking with Telegraph Sport underneath the Stadio Olimpico. When you consider that Lynagh’s debut coincided with Italy ending a near 11-year drought for a home win in the Six Nations, that is one powerful lucky number.

Lynagh continued: “He said to go out there and trust yourself. A few tactical things in there, but just be yourself, trust the people around you. All the guys since I’ve come into the team have been amazing.”

Three years ago off the back of his extraordinary season for Harlequins, which culminated in winning the 2020-21 Gallagher Premiership, the concept of Lynagh in an Italy shirt would have been thrown out. He seemed certain to play for England.

The Stadio Olimpico on Saturday was deafening, sold out for the first time since 2016. Lynagh had experienced a similar atmosphere before - as a travelling reserve with England at the Stade de France towards the end of the 2022 Six Nations. From there he fell off England’s radar and is now leaving Harlequins, the club he joined as a teenager, at the end of the season to join Benetton. It has been a busy, life-altering few weeks for a young man who is still just 23.

“It has been a bit of a whirlwind,” Lynagh admits. “It’s obviously sad to leave Quins. It was an amazing opportunity with Benetton. It’s sad – I have been at Harlequins since I was 14 and it’s where all my best mates are. But sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and try something different and hopefully it succeeds. The Italy call-up, I didn’t really expect it. But I’m trying to enjoy it at the moment, to also stay calm and do the best I can. Hopefully that means I can continue being in these moments.”

Harlequins' Louis Lynagh scores their side's third try of the game during the Investec Champions Cup match at Twickenham Stoop, London
Harlequins' Louis Lynagh scores their side's third try of the game during the Investec Champions Cup match at Twickenham Stoop, London

Before the lucky number conversation was another sign that Lynagh would be alright; he slept “really well”. Italy went through their final meetings before Lynagh took his seat on the bus. “I was sitting in a window seat taking it all in - it was pretty emotional.” Lynagh might have grown up in England but he was born in Treviso and his mother is Italian. This meant a lot. “Nerves are a factor, but they were gone by kick-off.”

In attack he had to be patient, an early chance to threaten Scotland coming after a rare bad pass from Finn Russell went to ground and Lynagh hacked on. Then four minutes after half-time? Bang. Lynagh and his team-mates had discussed at half-time how Scotland’s defence can end up leaving a lot of space in the back-field. Paolo Garbisi spotted it and put through a grubber that bounced up well for a chasing Lynagh, who had the speed to split Kyle Steyn and Russell. The noise inside the Stadio Olimpico was astonishing, not that Lynagh was aware. “I couldn’t hear much of it because everyone was jumping on top of me. I would love to keep the atmosphere like that, win or lose, a full house every time we play. It’s a big ask but it made a huge difference, I can tell you, from speaking to the boys in there.”

Lynagh later helped Ange Capuozzo usher an accelerating Duhan van der Merwe into touch - revenge for Van der Merwe holding Capuozzo over the try-line earlier like he was a bag of flour. There was only one sign of growing pains; Lynagh bellowing, arms outstretched for the ball to be flung wide with Italy attacking deep in Scotland’s 22 in the build-up to Stephen Varney’s try. It did not matter given the outcome of that attack, but one try for Lynagh might easily have been two.

Otherwise, Lynagh has slotted into this side with ease. He was called up only before Italy’s draw with France - they are yet to lose while he has been in camp. Wales are next and Lynagh’s insight into Italy’s approach, particularly given the talent on offer in this young side, should make everyone excited about their potential.

“We have a really good system implemented by the coaches, but also, rugby is rugby. If the space is there, we are going to take it. I think we’re adapting that well. We have an amazing, talented group of players. [This win] shows when we can put it together, all the hard work and we’re up for it emotionally, it’s all there. Saying that, it doesn’t need to be a perfect storm for Italy to win. I feel like the group going forward, there is something amazing coming in and we can hopefully go into Wales with our heads held high and go for another win. I think we are building something really special.”

For Italy, not England, Lynagh has made an instant impact.

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