sport news star Maxime Mbanda ready for England challenge after tackling coronavirus ...

Whatever awaits Maxime Mbanda when take on England, it won't compare with the importance and difficulty and trauma of the work he volunteered for earlier this year - which earned him the gratitude of his nation.

The 28-year-old Zebre flanker is among the Azzurri replacements for the Six Nations decider against Eddie Jones's Red Rose side at 's Stadio Olimpico. He and his team-mates are underdogs facing a monumental task in trying to compete with their title-chasing English opponents.

But it is sport. It is not a life-and-death scenario, the like of which Mbanda was plunged into when the first COVID wave hit . When the fixture against England on March 14 was postponed due to the pandemic and sport was put on hold across the world, the surgeon's son decided he needed to help. After a quick online enquiry, he was straight into action.

Italy flanker Maxime Mbanda worked as an ambulance driver during the pandemic

flanker Maxime Mbanda worked as an ambulance driver during the pandemic

'When we found out what was happening, when we couldn't play the match against England, they sent us home and said there would be no games,' he said. 'On the news was just about coronavirus so I just did a Google search for three words, "coronavirus, Parma, help". I found an article about the collaboration between the Parma commune (council) and the Yellow Cross.

'So I called them and on the first day we provided the service of food and drugs to the old people, because they couldn't leave home to save their lives. But on the second day, because there are a lot of older people working for the Yellow Cross, they called and asked me if I was ready to help with transporting patients to another hospital, because the Parma hospital was full at that time.

'So I started doing that job. I was worried about it because I had a girlfriend at home and we found out that we were expecting a baby, so I was worried for her. But the other volunteers really helped me a lot with my worries, because they taught me that we were trying to save people's lives.

After being sent home, the surgeon's son decided he needed to help in Parma

After being sent home, the surgeon's son decided he needed to help in Parma 

'We weren't doing the same job as the doctors and nurses, but every time we took a person with COVID to another hospital, you have his life in your hands, so you have to act in the best way to save his life. This kind of way to think helped me so much. Every time I woke up in the morning, my first thought was to go to the Yellow Cross, to save

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