World Cup player profiles: Italy

Date published: September 11 2015

Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, Italy

Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici, Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (c), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni,

Backs: Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Angelo Esposito, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti


Prop    1.85m    108kg    13.02.1981

Part of the squad that played in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Aguero played one game against Portugal. For a year that was his last appearance for the national team before Nick Mallett recalled him the following year. After a three-year absence from the national team between 2010 and 2013, Aguero worked his way back into contention thanks to good form with club side Zebre. Previously he had spent three seasons in England with Saracens.


Prop    1.88m    119kg    21.10.1981

After starting out at Calvisano, Castrogiovanni made his international debut for Italy on June 8, 2002, during the tour against the All Blacks and since has become a regular in the national side. His 12 Test tries is the most by any prop in international rugby, and he made his 100th appearance for Italy against Fiji in 2013. After seven seasons with Leicester he joined Toulon in 2013 and won the Top 14 and European Cup in his first season with the club.


 Fly-half/Centre    1.82m    97kg    28.11.1992

An up-and-coming three-quarter, Treviso's Enrico Bacchin can play both at fly-half and in the centres. The youngster arrived at Treviso in 2013 and two-years later was called into the national team during the Six Nations. He made his Test debut, starting in midfield, in the win over Scotland, before coming off the bench in the final two games of the tournament.


  Prop    1.80m    110kg    14.09.1988

Born in South Africa, Chistolini started his rugby career with Petrarca Padova before moving to England to play for Gloucester in 2011. After two years at Kingsholm he went back to Italy to play for Zebre. Good form with the Parma-based side saw him earn a call-up to the Test team and he made his international debut in 2014 against Samoa.


Prop    1.91m    125kg    17.12.1982

Cittadini made his debut for Italy against Ireland in February 2008 during the Six Nations having impressed for club side Calvisano. He played at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and established himself as the primary back-up to Martin Castrogiovanni at tighthead. He left Treviso, after a five-year spell, in 2014 to move to Wasps where he has made an impressive start to his career.


Prop    1.88m    115kg     16.09.1982

A veteran prop, Michele Rizzo has been part of the Italian squad for a decade now, having made his debut back in 2005 against Australia. Due to the competition in the Azzurri front row, he's struggled to establish himself as first choice, often settling for a replacement role. In 2014 he was sent off for a headbutt against France, while he has never been to a World Cup.


Hooker    1.84m    99kg     26.12.1984

Ghiraldini began his career with Petrarca Padova before a five-year spell at Treviso starting in 2009. The powerful hooker played his first international game against Japan during Italy's 2006 June tour and has established himself as first choice, featuring in the last eight editions of the Six Nations. He captained Italy for the first time in 2008, while over the off-season he left Treviso to join Leicester Tigers.


Hooker    1.83m     108kg    16.01.1986

A latecomer to the highest stage, hooker Davide Giazzon was 26 before he first got his chance at Test level in 2012. Since then he has become a regular for the Azzurri behind Leonardo Ghiraldini. However a move from Zebre to Treviso in 2014 seems to have backfired, with his replacement at Zebre, Andrea Manici, leapfrogging him in the pecking order.


Hooker    1.83m    104kg    28.04.1990

Part of a new generation of Italian rugby players, Manici has been part of Zebre's improvement over the last two seasons and made his Italy debut against Samoa in June 2013 as a result. A former Italy U20 international, the hooker played for Parma before joining Zebre.


Second row    1.98m    110kg    03.03.1984

A well-travelled forward, Valerio Bernabo is one of the more experienced members of the Italian squad, having made his Test debut back in 2004. While he has not been able to establish himself as a first team regular, he has been in and around the Azzurri squad for more than a decade, and at club level he has played for Calvisano, Brive, Rome, Treviso and finally Zebre from 2014 onwards. He was part of both the 2007 and 2011 World Cup squads.


Lock/Flanker    1.99m    102kg     21.10.1989

He was born in Australia but grew up in Italy in the town of Benevento. He began his career with Viadana, then played for Aironi in the PRO12, Biarritz in France and now Newcastle in the Premiership. He made his Test debut as a substitute in a 13–6 win against Scotland in the 2012 Six Nations Championship. On 22 February 2014, he scored his first try for Italy in a Six Nations defeat to Scotland, and was subsequently named Man of the Match.


Second row     1.98m    116kg    09.03.1991

An established starter for Treviso, second row Marco Fuser made his Test debut back in 2012 on a June tour to Canada. That came after impressing for Italy at age group level, but he has had to bide his time for more chances with the national team. Recalled for the 2015 Six Nations, he featured off the bench against Ireland and in the last-gasp win away to Scotland at Murrayfield.


Lock    2.03m    116kg    19.06.1981

Born in South Africa, Geldenhuys is a second row for Zebre. He made his debut for Italy against Australia on June 13, 2009 and qualifies through residency. He captained Italy in all three Tests of their June tour in 2014.


Back row    1.85m    98kg    01.05.1979

Set to become only the second man after Brian Lima to play in five World Cups, Mauro Bergamasco made his Italy debut all the way back in 1998. The vastly-experienced flanker will retire after the tournament, and while no longer an automatic first choice for the Azzurri, he started two games during the 2015 Six Nations. As well as playing flanker, he has notably started both at scrum-half and on the wing for Italy.


Lock/Flank    1.93m    102kg     20.05.1987

Capable of playing in both the second row and the back row, Minto made his international debut for Italy in 2012. At club level he plays for Treviso, who he joined in 2010 having begun his career in Crociati. His first international appearance came against New Zealand.


Flank/Number Eight    1.96m    112kg     12.09.1983

A number eight of great handling ability, Parisse's positional sense in the line-out and flair for getting across the gainline has marked him out as a special player in an often struggling Italian team. He was capped at the age of just 18 by then Italy coach John Kirwan, in a 64–10 defeat against New Zealand in June 2002. Parisse scored his first Test try against Canada in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He has gone on to captain Italy and earned his 100th cap in 2013 against Fiji. At club level he plays for Stade Français.


Number Eight    1.89m    95kg    19.08.1988

Born in Fiji, Vunisa moved to Italy to play for Calvisano originally before joining Zebre in 2013. A number eight, he played age grade level rugby for Fiji before getting called up for Italy for the first time for the 2014 November Tests.


Flank/Number Eight    1.93m    106kg    31.01.1984

Capable of playing across the back row, Zanni made his debut for the Italian national team in November 2005 in a Test against Tonga. He has since established himself as a regular in the Italy back row and has featured in the last nine editions of the Six Nations. He has played club rugby at Treviso since 2009.


Scrum-half    1.78m    81kg    05.03.1990

Born in Prato, Gori captained Italy U20 before he made his debut against Australia in 2010. He also played four games at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. By November 2014, he had played 34 Tests for Italy, starting 24 times.


Scrum-half    1.77m     80kg    11.04.1991

Unusually versatile in that he can play both scrum-half and full-back, Guglielmo Palazzani has been used in the former role by the Azzurri since making his Test debut in 2014. The Zebre player made his debut with a start away to Fiji in June 2014 before featuring regularly off the bench that November and during the 2015 Six Nations.


  Scrum-half    1.78m    82kg    11.10.1993

A surprise inclusion in Italy's 2015 Six Nations squad, scrum-half Marcello Violi is one of very few players plying his trade in Italy's National Championship with Calvisano. Unused in the end during the Six Nations, he has featured for Zebre as a permit player while they were missing their internationals. Previously he was a member of the Italy U20 side that won the 2013 Junior World Trophy.


Fly-half/Centre/Fullback    1.88m    87kg    26.04.1993

A product of the Wasps Academy Tommaso Allan hails from a rugby family; his Scottish father William Allan and his Italian mother Paola Berlato both played in Italy, while his uncle John Allan earned nine caps for Scotland. He played U19 for Western Province before joining French club Perpignan. Despite playing for Scotland at U17, U18 and U20s level, he made his Test debut for Italy, coming off the bench to score against Australia.


 Fly-half    1.91m    93kg    25.08.1992

Canna currently plays for Zebre in the PRO12 and the Heineken Cup. Canna followed in the footsteps of his father, Gerardo Canna who represented Italy at youth level. The talented young fly-half won the award for best player in the Championship of Excellence in 2014/15 after he enlisted in the State Police, which allowed him entry into the team of the Golden Flame in 2012. Canna established himself as a reliable goal-kicker for the Golden Flame, which resulted in a contract with Zebre for their 2015/2016 PRO12 season. He made his Test debut in 2015.


  Centre/Wing/Fullback    1.85m    93kg    12.12.1990

A utility back who can play at centre, wing or full-back Benvenuti is a key player for French club Perpignan having moved there from Treviso. He made his Italy debut against Argentina on November 13, 2010, a month before his 20th birthday. He also played four games at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.


Centre    1.84m    99kg    13.03.1993

A star of the future Campagnaro currently plays for Treviso in the PRO12. Plays mainly as a center but can also be seen on the wing and has played Sevens. On his debut match against Connacht in 2013, he was names Man of the Match. He scored 34 points in so games for Italy U20. Campagnaro made his Test bow in 2013.


Centre    1.85m     96kg    18.02.1984

Garcia was born in Mendoza, Argentina. He played the U19 World Cup in 2003 and the U21 World Cup in 2005 for Argentina. In 2007 he moved to Italy to play with Calvisano, subsequently choosing to play for Italy and making his debut against South Africa in Cape Town in 2008. He was called up for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, playing in three games but without scoring. In 2012 he mosved from Treviso to Zebre.


  Fullback/Wing/Centre/Fly-half    1.86m    92kg    30.03.1981

Masi is a stalwart of the Italian team having played at three World Cups. In March 2011, Masi was named the 2011 Six Nations Player of the Championship. Masi scored Italy's late try in their first ever Six Nations Championship win against France. He currently plays for the English Premiership club Wasps.


Fullback/Wing/Fly-half    1.90m    95kg    29.06.1987

McLean was eligible for both Australia, being his country of birth, and Italy, due to his Italian grandmother. He represented Australia U19, helping the side to win the World U19 Championship. He made his international debut for Italy against 2007 Rugby World Cup winners South Africa in 2008. McLean joined Benetton Treviso in 2009 where he played over 80 games. In mid-2014 he signed with the Sale Sharks on a two-year deal.


Wing    1.92m    93kg     15.01.1992

In May 2013, Sarto was called up Italy for the South African Quadrangular Tournament. On his international debut against Scotland he scored his first try, narrowly losing the game 29-30. In 2014, Sarto debut his first Six Nations Championship, scoring two tries, one against Ireland and one against England.


Winger/Centre    1.87m    111kg    27.03.1990

One of Jacques Brunel's most successful call-ups to the Italy side, Giovanbattista Venditti made a flying start to his Test career with a try in only his second Test back in 2012 against England. A powerful runner, he is capable of playing both in the centres and on the wing, though it is in the latter position that he has predominantly featured at Test level. He will join Newcastle after the World Cup.


Back-row    1.84m     99kg    07.11.1988

Favaro, the son of former Italy lock Roberto Favaro, began his career playing for the Treviso U19 team before stepping up to the Super 10 with Rovigo and Overmach Parma.  Favaro was an early developer and, at the age of 20, was the youngest player included in Nick Mallett's squad for the 2009 Six Nations Championship. Favaro did not feature in the Championship; he subsequently made his debut against Australia in the 2009 June tour of the Southern Hemisphere. In June 2010 he joined Aironi for their first season in the PRO12.