ROME (Reuters) – Italy coach Conor O’Shea has named five changes to his side to face Ireland in the Six Nations on Sunday, with Braam Steyn moving from flank to take over at number eight from veteran Sergio Parisse.
Parisse was ruled out after suffering concussion while playing for his club Stade Francais at the weekend.
The loss of his experience and leadership is a blow after he broke the record for the most Six Nations appearances at the start of this year’s competition.
Four of Italy’s changes come in the pack as New Zealand-born loose-forward Jimmy Tuivaiti will make a first start on the side of the scrum, replacing Sebastian Negri.
Lock Federico Ruzza will start for the first time, in his 10th cap, with David Sisi dropping to the bench, while Maxime Mbanda takes the place of Steyn in the number seven jersey.
Prop Andrea Lovotti comes into the front row for Nicola Quaglio, while hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini takes over the captaincy from Parisse.
The only change in the backline sees Tito Tebaldi replace Guglielmo Palazzani in the scrumhalf position.
Ireland-born flyhalf Ian McKinley has been named among the replacements, a remarkable moment for a player who had initially retired from rugby at the age of 21 due to an eye injury, but now lines up against the country of his birth.
Italy lost their opening two Six Nations encounters, 33-20 away in Scotland and 26-15 home to Wales.
They have also lost their last seven tests against Ireland, with their previous success a 22-15 victory in Rome in 2013.
The teams met in Chicago in November, when Ireland ran out 54-7 winners.
Team: 15-Jayden Hayward, 14-Edoardo Padovani, 13-Michele Campagnaro, 12-Luca Morisi, 11-Angelo Esposito, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Braam Steyn, 7-Maxime Mbanda, 6-Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5-Dean Budd, 4-Federico Ruzza, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1-Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16-Luca Bigi, 17-Cherif Traore, 18-Tiziano Pasquali, 19-David Sisi, 20-Alessandro Zanni, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Ian McKinley, 23-Tommaso Castello.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)