Minozzi and Polledri to provide youthful spark in Azzurri mission

Joe Leavey
06 September 2019

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Conor O’Shea has opted for a healthy combination of youth and experience in his 31-strong squad that will make the trip to Japan.

Sergio Parisse will once again lead his country into what will be his record-equalling fifth World Cup, and is one of the few players who are currently based outside of the Guinness PRO14.

The Italy squad will no doubt have a unique sense of union running through it, but that bad news for O’Shea is that escaping a group that contains New Zealand and South Africa is going to be tough.

THE OLD HEADS

Italy have finished third in their pool at every World Cup barring 1999, when they failed to pick up a point, meaning reaching the knockout stages would re-write the history books.

And former Benetton man Parisse will do exactly that when he steps out onto the grass in Japan, equalling compatriot Mauro Bergamasco’s record of featuring in five World Cups.

Current and former Benetton veterans Alessandro Zanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini will also be making their fourth RWC appearances and the Azzurri will need all of their experience if they are beat one of the top dogs.

THE YOUNG LEGS

Zebre pair Mattia Bellini and Edoardo Padovani provide Italy with plenty of pace on the wing with Matteo Minozzi not a bad option to bring into the equation either. The 2018 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship nominee has the explosive talent neccessary if the Azzurri are going to shock the big boys.

Meanwhile Benetton are supplying the squad with youthful forwards to help back up the likes of Dean Budd, Zanni and Parisse.

Props Marco Riccioni, Tiziano Pasquali and Simone Ferrari will all have a part to play in Japan while Federico Ruzza and Sebastian Negri could push O’Shea for a starting berth. Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri has an uncanny ability to beat a defender and as the 23-year-old matures he has the feel of a man who could announce himself on the biggest world stage.

There was however no space for 21-year-old Marco Zanon on the plane.

THE NO.10 JERSEY

O’Shea surprised a few by opting to include just two fly-halves in his squad, instead opting to name three scrum-halves in his ranks.

Treviso No.10 Ian McKinley was the man who missed out as O’Shea continues to flick between his options of Carlo Canna and Tommaso Allan with the latter the more likely to start the big games in Japan.

And Canna will get the nod at fly-half when Italy face England in Newcastle on September 6 in their final preparation game before the World Cup.

Italy open their World Cup campaign against Namibia in Osaka on September 22nd.

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