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Castro - Il Neo-Capitano

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A summer Test between Canada and Italy is not usually big box office, but it's a shame that live coverage was not more readily available in Tigers country this weekend.

Even with an evening kick-off across the Atlantic requiring late-night viewing in Europe, this is one the Tigers Family would love to see.

How we’d love to share the occasion as Martin Castrogiovanni captains Italy for the first time.

The experience of 86 previous caps makes him the go-to man in the squad in the absence of Sergio Parisse and Marco Bortolami.

The Tig sees Castro as the last man to put himself forward for the honour of leading his country, but don’t let the lovable, huggable image portrayed to fans fool you. The fires burn brightly in Castro, as witnessed by his rousing renditions of the anthem on national duty, his emotions in defeat for club or country, and his try celebrations in a Tigers shirt.

What he likes to dismiss as just a “Latin temperament” is actually a pure passion for the game, a steely will to win and the talent to go with it.

You know what rugby means to him. Don’t forget that Castro left his family behind when he was just a teenager to travel halfway across the world to pursue his dream of a professional rugby career. No wonder, then, that he appears to treat every game as if it is his last, celebrates every score as if it is a World Cup winner and makes as many contributions around the field as possible. Or that the fans love him for it.

Never doubt his ability as a leader either. The battle always begins in the front row and it was Castro who provided the final words before the Tigers gave world champions South Africa a bloody nose at Welford Road in 2009.

He also knows the game and there is more to modern props than bending over and pushing.

As a front-row friend once assured The Tig, props have to be among the most tactically astute players in the team – “so they don’t get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

It’s self-deprecating front-row humour, of course, but it also tells you what you need to know about the all-round skills demanded of players at the coalface of the modern game.

When it comes to his style in the minutes leading up to kick-off tonight, Castro may make a slight change. As one of his Tigers colleagues pondered this week:“I wonder if he swears as much in Italian.”

Good luck Il Capitano.