Friday, 10 June 2016
Coach Conor O’Shea begins his mission to create “the best Italy team ever” with a one-off Test against Argentina in Santa Fe Saturday.
But the 45-year-old successor to Frenchman Jacques Brunel must face the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finalists without several key players.
Captain Sergio Parisse, Alessandro Zanni and Francesco Minto, the back row when the Azzurri crumbled 67-14 to Wales last March, are rested.
Only four starters in Cardiff — wingers Leonardo Sarto and David Odiete, prop Andrea Lovotti and lock Quintin Geldenhuys — begin against the Pumas.
Star 117-cap tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni has been omitted for one-off Tests in Argentina, the United States and Canada.
He was banned by French club Racing 92 for partying in Las Vegas instead of attending a European Champions Cup semi-final in England.
Although former Ireland full-back O’Shea has named only one new cap, centre Tommaso Boni, seven starters have 10 or less caps.
O’Shea has a bold plan to transform Italy from perennial Six Nations Championship whipping boys into formidable opponents at the highest level.
“I want this to be the best Italian team ever. I played against a fantastic Italian team in the 1990s and I think we can become even better than that team.”
Fitness is a key issue for the man capped 35 times at full-back by Ireland, who joined Italy after coaching roles with London Irish and Harlequins.
“Italy always start fast but as the match progresses they get slower and slower. We have to change that and identify the players who can help us.
“I love my teams to play with the ball in hand, but you cannot do that,for example, if you cannot make your tackles,” said O’Shea.
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade starts with only four of the team beaten by South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup third-place play-off in London.
Winger Santiago Cordero, centre Matias Moroni, fly-half and leading 2015 World Cup points scorer Nicolas Sanchez and lock Matias Alemanno survive.
The drastic overhaul is due to suspensions and a decision to pick only home-based players, ruling out Toulon back-rower Juan Fernandez Lobbe.
Super Rugby debutants Jaguares — the national team in disguise — have been plagued by ill discipline during a dismal run of 10 losses in 12 matches.
Leonardo Senatore received a 10-week ban for biting and shoulder charges by fellow forwards Ramiro Herrera and Tomas Lavanini triggered suspensions.
After being well beaten by Italy when they first met, Argentina have gained the upper hand, winning 14 of the 20 Tests between the countries.
The Pumas last lost to the Azzurri in 2008, winning five Tests in a row since, including three on Italian soil.
Source by: AFP