TOKYO (Reuters) – Italy coach Conor O’Shea has made nine changes to his starting line-up from their last outing for Sunday’s World Cup Pool B opener against Namibia, with Sergio Parisse returning to play his 141st test.
The 36-year-old loose forward will match Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll’s tally of test caps when he captains the side against Osaka in the opening match of his fifth and final World Cup campaign.
Only Brian Lima of Samoa and fellow Italian Mauro Bergamasco have played as many tournaments, while New Zealand great Richie McCaw is the only international to have played more tests, with his record tally of 148.
Italy lost 37-0 to England in their last warm-up and O’Shea has overhauled his side from that match, with 35-year-old Alessandro Zanni returning at lock in a much-altered tight five to start his fourth World Cup.
Scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi and flyhalf Tommaso Allan will be back in the halves running the backline, while speedster Matteo Minozzi and flanker Jake Polledri are kept in reserve on the bench.
Team: 15-Jayden Hayward, 14-Mattia Bellini, 13-Tommaso Benvenuti, 12-Luca Morisi, 11-Edoardo Padovani, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Maxime Mbanda, 6-Braam Steyn, 5-Federico Ruzza, 4-Alessandro Zanni, 3-Tiziano Pasquali, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16-Oliviero Fabiani, 17-Simone Ferrari, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Dean Budd, 20-Jake Polledri, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Matteo Minozzi.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)