Wasps announce today that Italian international Carlo Festuccia will retire at the end of the 2016/17 season, after an impressive 19-year career in professional rugby.
The 36-year-old hooker is a firm fans’ favourite, having made 68 appearances during his two stints with Wasps, after first linking up with the club in 2013.
Festuccia left for Zebre Rugby at the end of the 2015/16 season, but returned as injury cover in January of this year when he received a warm welcome back from the Wasps’ faithful.
Unfortunately, a hand injury sustained during Wasps’ A-League Semi Final against Gloucester means Festuccia will be unable to make a final appearance for Wasps before officially hanging up his boots.
Festuccia made an immediate impact for Italy on his debut in 2003, when he scored the winning try against Wales at Stadio Flaminio, in the first round of the 6 nations. He went on to represent the Azzurri 54 times and played in the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.
Starting his career with his home club L’Aquila in 1998, Festuccia has played his domestic rugby in the Super 10, Pro 12, Top 14, Aviva Premiership, Amlin Challenge Cup, Heineken Cup, Challenge Cup and Champions Cup, donning the shirts of L’Aquila, Gran Parma, Racing 92, Aironi, Parma, Zebre Rugby and Wasps.
Persuaded to join Wasps in 2013 by his childhood friend and fellow Italian international Andrea Masi, the pair quickly became popular members of the squad, with both fans and players, adding experience to an otherwise youthful group.
On news of his retirement, Carlo Festuccia said: “I’d like to thank all of the clubs I’ve had the pleasure of representing during my career. Each has been a unique experience and I have been lucky to enjoy 19 years in the game.
“It was a very easy decision for me to come back to Wasps when I spoke to Dai earlier this year and to end my career at this club that I love, with us competing at the top of the Aviva Premiership, has been a good way for me to finish. I appreciate Dai and the club putting faith in me in this final stage of my career.
“I also can’t thank the supporters at Wasps enough. They have always been great to me and when I returned here from Zebre, the support they showed me was amazing.
“Wasps is a club that will continue to improve. In my time here we have gone from the bottom of the table to the top and that has taken tireless hard work from everyone here; players, Dai and the coaches, support staff and the off-field team, as well as our fans who have supported us throughout.
“There has been huge positive change since Derek Richardson took over the club and I’m sure Wasps have an exciting future ahead of them. This year we are looking to finish well and I’m sure the club will continue to improve every year.
“I still love playing rugby at the weekend but, as you get older, training every day does get a lot tougher! After a life spent out on the pitch, it will be hard for me to hang up my boots and I will miss playing and for this reason I want to try and stay involved with the game at some level.
“Thank you to all players I have had the privilege of playing alongside, the physios who have enabled me to play as long as I have, and everyone who has supported me along the way, particularly my family.”
Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “Carlo retires with a 19-year career that he can be hugely proud of, representing his country 54 times and playing for some big names in European rugby.
“I’ll always be grateful to Andrea Masi for pushing me in Carlo’s direction back in 2013 as the two of them added a huge amount of know-how to our squad after a number of our more experienced players had been forced to retire.
“It was a no-brainer for me when the option of re-signing Carlo came up this year as injury cover. He’s a great person to have in the squad and will always give his all for the team and those are qualities that will serve him well as he moves onto his next challenge. Hopefully he will stay in the game in some form or other.
“I’m sure I join everyone involved with the club, players, staff and supporters, in wishing Carlo and his family all the best for the future.”