Rugby Calvisano will compete in the European Rugby Challenge Cup for the sixth time next season, after winning their two-leg Continental Shield play-off against Italian rivals Rovigo 57-43. Below, we take a closer look at the Top 12 champions.
What is their European record like?
This will be the Brescia team’s first appearance in the competition since 2015/16, when they came bottom of Pool 3 after losing all six games. Their Challenge Cup debut campaign – in 1999/2000 – finished the same way.
Their best season in the tournament was 2007/08, when they were third in Pool 5 after winning two of their six matches, against Dax and Leeds Carnegie.
Who is their head coach?
Massimo Brunello, who played eight Tests on the wing for Italy between 1988 and 1993, has been head coach of Calvisano since 2015, having cut his coaching teeth at Rovigo, where he spent all his playing career between 1985 and 2000.
After spells as youth and assistant coach at Rovigo, the 51-year-old was offered the top job at Badia in 2004 and guided them from the B series to A2.
That caught the eye of the Rovigo hierarchy, who appointed him head coach in 2007 and he took them to the Super 10 play-offs for the first time in 11 years.
The Italian Federation then came calling in 2009 and he managed the national under-17 and under-18 teams, before returning to club rugby with Calvisano, where he won the first championship of his coaching career in 2017.
Not long until the #ChallengeCupRugby Pool Stage Draw as all eyes turn towards Marseille 😍
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) May 25, 2019
Who are their top players?
Calvisano will probably look to the experience of Fijian-born No.8 Samu Vunisa and scrum-half Fabio Semenzato to spearhead their Challenge Cup campaign.
The 30-year-old Vunisa won 11 caps for Italy between 2014 and 2015, and has made 21 European appearances across all three competitions – the Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and Continental Shield – for Calvisano, Zebre, Saracens and Glasgow Warriors.
The 33-year-old Semenzato has even more experience, having played 32 games for Benetton in the European Cup before switching to Calvisano and has played in 12 Tests for Italy between 2011 and 2012.
Prop Matteo Zanusso is another ex-Benetton player and has 16 European appearances under his belt in both the Champions and Challenge Cups, as well as five Italy caps.
Calvisano have further Southern Hemisphere talent in their ranks in South African-born lock Mike van Vuren and back Kayle van Zyl, plus Australian fly-half Sam Lane.