Rome – Irish coach Conor O’Shea on Tuesday called up five uncapped players for Italy’s 34-man squad for three Test matches in November.
Captain and No 8 Sergio Parisse and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, absent during the summer tour, both make their return to the squad for games against Fiji, Argentina and South Africa on consecutive weekends between November 11-25.
The five new faces are fullback Matteo Minozzi, Ireland-born flyhalf Ian McKinley, New Zealand-born centre Jayden Hayward, and backrowers Renato Giammarioli and Giovanni Licata.
“Despite numerous injuries, there’s been much discussion within the team management over several positions,” said O’Shea.
“The quality of the work done by Benetton Rugby and Zebre Rugby, and more generally at all levels of Italian rugby, is starting to have a real impact on the quality and quantity of players at our disposition.”
Turning to his team’s tough line-up of matches, O’Shea said: “We have our feet on the ground and we know very well how tough the upcoming games will be.
“But we’re also conscious of the fact that we’re making significant progress towards our goal, which is to again become an extremely competitive team at international level.”
Props: Dario Chistolini (Zebre Rugby), Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby), Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton Rugby), Federico Zani (Benetton Rugby)
Hookers: Luca Bigi (Benetton Rugby), Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse/FRA)
Second-row: George Fabio Biagi (Zebre Rugby), Dean Budd (Benetton Rugby), Marco Fuser (Benetton Rugby), Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby), Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby)
Back-row: Renato Giammarioli (Zebre Rugby Club), Giovanni Licata (Fiamme Oro), Maxime Mata Mbanda (Zebre Rugby), Francesco Minto (Benetton Rugby), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais/FRA), Abraham Steyn (Benetton Rugby)
Scrumhalves: Edoardo Gori (Benetton Rugby), Tito Tebaldi (Benetton Rugby), Marcello Violi (Zebre Rugby Club)
Flyhalves: Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby), Ian McKinley (Benetton Rugby)
Centres: Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Rugby), Tommaso Boni (Zebre Rugby), Tommaso Castello (Zebre Rugby Club), Jayden Hayward (Benetton Rugby)
Wingers: Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby), Angelo Esposito (Benetton Rugby), Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow/SCO), Giovambattista Venditti (Zebre Rugby)
Fullbacks: Matteo Minozzi (Zebre Rugby Club), Edoardo Padovani (Toulon/FRA)