Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada has made four alterations to his starting line-up for their Round Two Six Nations Test against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
The Azzurri have been boosted by the return of backline star Ange Capuozzo, who was a late withdrawal ahead of last weekend’s Championship opener with England due to illness.
Capuozzo was set to start on the right wing in that game but will line up at full-back against Ireland and he comes into the run-on side at the expense of Tommaso Allan, who is relegated to the replacements bench.
New number nine
There is one other change in the backline with Stephen Varney coming in to replace Alessandro Garbisi, who drops out of the matchday squad. Joining Varney in the half-backs is the older Garbisi, Paolo, while Juan Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello continue as the centre combination.
Lorenzo Pani and Monty Ioane also retain their places in the run-on side and join Capuozzo in an exciting back three.
Amongst the forwards, there are two enforced alterations due to the absence of back-row duo Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone, who both withdrew earlier in the week due to injuries.
That means Azzurri captain Michele Lamaro shifts from the openside flank to take Cannone’s spot at number eight, while Manuel Zuliani starts at number seven and Alessandro Izekor is set to make his first Test start as he fills in for Negri on the blindside.
The rest of the pack sees Federico Ruzza and Niccolò Cannone continuing in the engine room while Pietro Ceccarelli continues at tighthead prop, alongside hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and loosehead Danilo Fischetti.
On the replacements bench, Exeter Chiefs star Ross Vintcent is in line to make his Test debut as back-row cover. Joining Vintcent as the forward replacements are Giacomo Nicotera, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosuè Zilocchi and Andrea Zambonin while Martin Page-Relo, Allan and Federico Mori cover the backline.
Despite being forced into some changes, Quesada is quietly confident ahead of this weekend’s clash.
“In Dublin the focus will be on our performance and trying to take a new step in our growth against one of the strongest teams in the world,” he said.
“We will be missing two elements in the forward department compared to the previous match, but we have a young group at our disposal who want to emerge.
“A tough match awaits us and it will be essential to be able to stay clear throughout the match.”
Italy’s team to face Ireland
Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori
Date: Sunday, February 11
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Luc Ramos (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)