Italy name 23 World Cup rookies in squad for Japan
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has unveiled his 31-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Sergio Parisse will captain Italy at his record-equalling fifth Rugby World Cup in Japan, but 23 of the 31-man squad will make their debut at the showpiece event next month.
Talismanic number eight Parisse made his tournament debut as a replacement against New Zealand in Melbourne in 2003 and will come up against the All Blacks again in Toyota City 16 years later – almost to the day.
He will be assisted in on-field leadership in Japan by vice-captain Leonardo Ghiraldini as the hooker, alongside second-row Alessandro Zanni, prepares to play at his fourth edition of the quadrennial tournament.
That senior trio will be invaluable to O’Shea who, in the wake of the Azzurri’s 85-15 win over Russia, has picked a squad light on Rugby World Cup experience.
Only five players other than Parisse, Ghiraldini and Zanni have previously appeared at the tournament, with 23 of those selected set to make their Rugby World Cup debuts in Japan.
“Choosing the 31 players for the Rugby World Cup and talking to those who will not continue the adventure with us was probably the hardest thing I have done since I’ve been in the rugby world,” O’Shea, who shaved the squad from an initial 44 players, said.
Italy open their Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign against Namibia in Osaka on September 22 before taking on Canada in Fukuoka four days later. Games against South Africa, in Shizuoka, on October 4 and New Zealand in Toyota City on October 12 will round out pool play.
— Italrugby (@Federugby) August 18, 2019
Italy World Cup squad:
Forwards: Simone Ferrari (Benetton), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre), Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton), Nicola Quaglio (Benetton), Marco Riccioni (Benetton), Federico Zani (Benetton), Luca Bigi (Zebre), Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre), Leonardo Ghiraldini (without team), Dean Budd (Benetton), Federico Ruzza (Benetton), David Sisi (Zebre), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton), Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Sebastian Negri (Benetton), Sergio Parisse (Toulon – captain), Jake Polledri (Gloucester), Abraham Steyn (Benetton)
Backs: Callum Braley (Gloucester), Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre), Tito Tebaldi (Benetton), Tommaso Allan (Benetton), Carlo Canna (Zebre), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton), Michele Campagnaro (Harlequins), Luca Morisi (Benetton), Mattia Bellini (Zebre), Giulio Bisegni (Zebre), Jayden Hayward (Benetton), Matteo Minozzi (Wasps), Edoardo Padovani (Zebre)