Italy boss Smith opts for youth against Ireland
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi will earn his first Italy cap in Saturday’s rescheduled Six Nations clash against Ireland behind closed doors in Dublin.
The 20-year-old was favoured over Tommaso Allan, as coach Franco Smith named a young side with just one player aged over 30, Garbisi’s Benetton Treviso teammate Jayden Hayward.
Garbisi is one of three newcomers along with hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and centre Federico Mori, who will both start on the bench.
Hayward, 33, will be joined in the backline by Mattia Bellini and Edoardo Padovani, the latter returning from injury.
Hooker Luca Bigi captains the team and he will have props Giosue Zilocchi and Danilo Fischetti for company in the front row.
Gloucester’s Jake Polledri wears the number 8 shirt for the first time alongside Braam Steyn and Sebastian Negri in the back row.
Carlo Canna is confirmed in the centre alongside Luca Morisi.
“We have a young team with players who have a great desire to prove their worth and win a place in the team in this group,” said South African Smith.
“I’ve seen the team grow slowly in these months since the lockdown and now I can’t wait to see them on the pitch.”
Smith added: “It will be a strange match without our fans, but we’ll have one more reason, in addition to the many we already have, to try to collect a positive result.”
The Azzurri fell to a 25th consecutive defeat in the tournament last time out with a 0-17 loss to Scotland in Rome in February and were set to take the wooden spoon for the 15th time when the coronavirus pandemic stopped play in March.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Jake Polledri, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 David Sisi, 20 Johan Meyer, 22 Maxime Mbanda, 23 Callub Braley, 24 Federico Mori
Date: Saturday, October 24
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 15.30 (16.30 Italian time; 14.30 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)