ITALY’S MICHELE RIZZO will make his Six Nations debut against Ireland, one of four changes announced by Azzurri coach Jacques Brunel ahead of the trip to Dublin this Saturday.
The Treviso tighthead, 29, returns to the front row in place of Andrea Lo Cicero after more than three years in the international wilderness.
Rizzo’s second and most recent international cap came in Cape Town during Italy’s tour of South Africa in the summer of 2008.
On the other side of the scrum, Lorenzo Cittadini replaces the injured Martin Castrogiovanni, who was ruled out for the rest of the tournament after cracking a rib during the defeat against England.
In midfield, Alberto Sgarbi is preferred to Gonzalo Canale, while South African-born out-half Tobias Botes makes his first start in blue. Botes was a late addition to Brunel’s squad in place of the injured Luciano Orquera, but has come off the bench in the defeats against France and England to replace Kristopher Burton.
Italy (vs Ireland): Masi; Vendetti, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, McLean; Botes, Gori; Rizzo, Ghiraldini, Cittadini; Geldenhuys, Bortolami; Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse (c). Replacements: D’Apice, Staibano, Pavanello, Favaro, Semenzato, Burton, Canale.
Ireland (v Italy): Kearney; Bowe, Earls, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross; O’Callaghan, O’Connell (c); Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Cronin, Court, Ryan, O’Mahony, Reddan, O’Gara, McFadden.