Italy head coach Kieran Crowley has named his matchday squad that will face France in their Six Nations opener at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday.
Crowley has made just two alterations to his starting line-up from the run-on side which faced South Africa in their Autumn Nations Series Test in Genoa last year, with Tommaso Menoncello and Simone Ferrari coming in for Monty Ioane and Pietro Ceccarelli on the left wing and at tighthead prop respectively.
Menoncello joins Pierre Bruno (right wing) and Ange Capuozzo (full-back) in the back three while Luca Morisi starts at inside centre and Juan Ignacio Brex is outside him in the number 13 jersey.
Rounding off the backline is Tommaso Allan and Stephen Varney, who form the half-back combination.
In the forwards, Michele Lamaro continues to captain the team from the openside flank with Sebastian Negri packing down on the blindside and Lorenzo Cannone starts at number eight.
Meanwhile, Federico Ruzza and Niccolò Cannone continue their second-row partnership while Giacomo Nicotera (hooker) and Danilo Fischetti (loosehead prop) join Ferrari in the front-row.
Veteran returns via the bench
On the bench, experienced hooker Luca Bigi returns to the matchday squad for the first time since the Azzurri‘s historic victory in Cardiff during last year’s Six Nations and Ceccarelli and Federico Zani are the other front-row replacements.
Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli and Manuel Zuliani are the other forward replacements as part of a six/two forwards/back split while Alessandro Fusco and Edoardo Padovani offer backline cover.
Although his team head into this match as overwhelming underdogs, Crowley is confident his players will give a good account of themselves.
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“We have worked well in these two weeks. We will face the team that won the last Six Nations,” he said.
“We are trying to build the work around who we are and how we play by focusing on our performance with the aim of showing the best version of ourselves.”
Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Tommaso Menoncello, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Edoardo Iachizzi, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Alessandro Fusco, 23 Edoardo Padovani
Date: Sunday, February 5
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)