Tributes paid after former Italy captain Cuttitta dies from COVID-19 complications

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ROME (Reuters) - The world of rugby has paid tribute to former Italy captain and Scotland scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta after he died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday.

Cuttitta, who earned 70 Azzurri caps from 1990 to 2000, passed away in hospital near Rome at the age of 54.

"Massimo was one of the symbols of the national team who, thanks to an extraordinary generation of players, gained access to the Six Nations with a series of unforgettable performances in the 1990s," said Italian Rugby Federation president Marzio Innocenti.

"He was not only an incredible servant of Italian rugby and an excellent interpreter of the role of prop, but also an appreciated ambassador of our movement abroad."

Cuttitta was part of the Italy team that famously beat Scotland in Rome on their debut Six Nations appearance in 2000.

He later worked as a scrum coach for the Scottish national team for six years until 2015, before spells as a coaching consultant with Romania, Canada and Portugal.

"Mas was a lovely man who connected really well with players and fellow coaches, building lasting relationships with a huge number of people in Scottish rugby and throughout the world," said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

"His passion and expertise made a game-changing impact at improving the scrummaging of the national team and both of our pro teams.

"He developed a strong bond with his beloved front row forwards, who I'm sure will be immensely grateful for having met and worked with him."

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont tweeted: "He was a superb servant of Italian rugby and a wonderful character."

The Six Nations described his passing as "incredibly sad news", while the All Blacks posted that they were "sending Aroha (love) to our Italian rugby family".

Former Scotland captain John Barclay wrote on Twitter: "I once sat down with Mas over an espresso and discussed our love of food, and in particular Parma ham.

"For the next two years he brought me care packages of his favourite Iberico hams from his hometown. One of life's truly lovely guys."

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)