ROME (Reuters) - Italy head coach Franco Smith has opted to add more experience to his youthful side for Saturday’s clash with England in the Six Nations after handing starts to centre Carlo Canna and prop Andrea Lovotti.
An injury to Marco Zanon sees Zebre playmaker Canna start at inside centre for his 49th Azzurri appearance, making him the most capped player in the starting lineup for the match at Twickenham.
“We will face one of the best teams in the world at an iconic stadium,” said Smith. “We’ve worked hard this week with particular detail on a few factors, with the objective of putting in a high level of performance on Saturday.”
Juan Ignacio Brex, who made his debut in the 50-10 defeat to France in Rome last weekend, moves to outside centre, while 43-cap loosehead Lovotti starts ahead of Daniele Rimpelli, who drops out of the matchday squad.
Canna was Smith’s preferred option at inside centre throughout the autumn, offering guidance to rookie 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi and another kicking option in the midfield.
Garbisi’s half-back partnership with 19-year-old Gloucester scrum-half Stephen Varney continues, while Luca Sperandio starts again on the wing after providing a moment of consolation against France with a superbly executed chip-and-chase try.
Lovotti’s introduction is the only change to the pack as the 31-year-old prepares for his first international appearance since the 17-0 defeat to Scotland in round three of the 2020 Six Nations.
On the bench, 60-time Italy international Tommaso Allan comes in with flanker Maxime Mbanda dropping out as Smith changes to a split of five forwards and three backs.
15. Jacopo Trulla (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 4 caps)
14. Luca Sperandio (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)
13 Juan Ignacio Brex(Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)
12 Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 48 caps)
11. Montanna Ioane(Benetton Rugby, 2 caps)
10. Paolo Garbisi(Benetton Rugby, 6 caps)
9. Stephen Varney (Gloucester Rugby, 4 caps)
8. Michele Lamaro (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)
7. Johan Meyer (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps)
6. Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 29 caps)
5. David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 12 caps)
4. Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)
3. Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)
2. Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 33 caps) (C)
1. Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 43 caps)
16. Gianmarco Lucchesi(Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)
17. Danilo Fischetti(Zebre Rugby Club, 9 caps)
18. Giosuè Zilocchi(Zebre Rugby Club, 11 caps)
19. Niccolò Cannone (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)
20. Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby, 20 caps)
21. Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby Club, 42 caps)
22. Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 60 caps)
23. Federico Mori (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 5 caps)
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)