Feature Interview | Marco Riccioni
When Marco Riccioni ruptured the ACL in his left knee 11 months ago you could have forgiven him for fearing the worst.
Many players in the professional game have failed to make it back onto the pitch after such a severe injury so when Riccioni was stretchered off the field during Italy’s clash with Argentina last November it would have left everyone involved with Saracens extremely concerned.
But such was the determination of the Italian prop to make a full recovery Riccioni has made it back on to the field of play aided by the efforts of the Saracens medical team. Riccioni made his comeback off the bench in the victory over Leicester a fortnight ago while he made his first start up at Newcastle last weekend.
He admits there were some dark times during his rehab but was waxing lyrical about the support he was given by Saracens. “It feels great to be back,” said the 24-year-old.
“11 months is a long time to be out injured. I’ve been through an emotional rollercoaster because when you see the guys playing in semi-finals and finals while you are sat at home watching it off the TV it isn’t very easy.
“I’m a very competitive person and I want to be playing in those big games but it’s just great to be back. I’m just trying to shake the rust off.
“The group were amazing with me. They kept me involved in everything.
“They could have just left me sit on the side while they played but they made sure they involved me in everything off the field. The staff were amazing especially when I had some tough days at the office during my recovery.
“They kept me motivated. They just helped me focus on the positive side of things which was what kept me going.” The tighthead prop has proved to be a very good acquisition for Saracens since joining from Italian outfit Benetton Rugby at the start of last season.
Riccioni has acquired a reputation as a ferocious scrummager, while he is a very mobile ball carrier around the park. Historically, Saracens have always been very good at identifying players with potential who aren’t household names and transforming them into top end players.
Riccioni falls into this bracket, and he is adamant training with the likes of Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, and Jamie George has made him a better player. “Playing in the Premiership has really helped improve my game,” he said.
“The URC is a bit slower whereas the Premiership is a lot faster. With the game being faster you have to get your details spot on.
“Training and playing with the international boys at Saracens have really helped me improve my game. It’s different when you have internationals from England, Wales, Fiji and Samoa giving you advice.
“I want to learn as much as I can while at Saracens. Watching the way, the likes of Maro Itoje trains and plays really inspires me.
“When you train with them you see what they do which motivates me to improve myself. If you join Sarries you have to be hungry to improve.”
The 18-cap international still retains aspirations to play for Italy but has revealed he won’t figure at test level this November instead opting to remain at Saracens. “I spoke with the Italy coaches a couple of weeks ago, and we had a very honest conversation,” he said.
“I told them I didn’t feel ready to play for Italy in November because I’ve just come back after a year out. Just playing four games here at Saracens and going straight into the international game isn’t going to give me confidence.
“I was very honest with him, and he completely agreed with me. I miss playing for Italy and I will be back in the blue jersey one day but playing for Saracens is what’s best for me at the moment.”