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Garbisi set for Italy debut as Azzurri prepare for Ireland clash

Garbisi set for Italy debut as Azzurri prepare for Ireland clash

Paolo Garbisi will make his Italy debut against Ireland on Saturday after Franco Smith named him at fly-half for the Guinness Six Nations clash.

The 20-year-old playmaker has enjoyed a meteoric rise after joining Benetton initially as a permit player from Petrarca Padova in June.

He started both of Benetton’s opening PRO14 matches, scoring 14 points against Ulster in Round 1 – including a try – and is second to Leigh Halfpenny in the top points scorers chart with 24.

Garbisi will play at half-back with scrum-half Marcello Violi, who is set for his first Test cap in more than two years, while Edoardo Padovani makes his first start of the 2020 Championship on the wing.

He replaces Matteo Minozzi for the trip to Dublin, while the rest of the backs are the same that lined up against Scotland in Round 3 in February.

Carlo Canna and Luca Morisi form a potent centre pairing, while Mattia Bellini and full-back Jayden Hayward complete the back three.

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Up front, hooker Luca Bigi captains the side and will scrum down between props Danilo Fischetti and Giosue Zilocchi.

Marco Lazzaroni is the beneficiary of Alessandro Zanni’s retirement and is promoted to the starting XV to play alongside fellow second row Niccolo Cannone, while Sebastian Negri, Braam Steyn and Jake Polledri form the back row.

Head coach Franco Smith could call on Maxime Mbanda from the bench just a couple of days after he was given the Knights of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic medal and certificate, for his endeavours during the early stages of the pandemic in spring when he became an ambulance driver.

Italy team to face Ireland:

15 Jayden HAYWARD (Benetton Rugby, 26 caps)

14 Edoardo PADOVANI (Benetton Rugby, 23 caps)

13 Luca MORISI (Benetton Rugby, 32 caps)

12 Carlo CANNA (Zebre Rugby Club, 26 caps)

11 Mattia BELLINI (Zebre Rugby Club, 25 caps)

10 Paolo GARBISI (Benetton Rugby, debut)

9 Marcello VIOLI (Zebre Rugby Club, 15 caps)

8 Jake POLLEDRI (Gloucester Rugby, 16 caps)

7 Braam STEYN (Benetton Rugby, 39 caps)

6 Sebastian NEGRI (Benetton Rugby, 25 caps)

5 Niccolò CANNONE (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)

4 Marco LAZZARONI (Benetton Rugby, 6 caps)

3 Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Zebre Rugby Club, 5 caps)

2 Luca BIGI (Zebre Rugby Club, 27 caps) – captain

1 Danilo FISCHETTI (Zebre) 3 caps


16 Gianmarco LUCCHESI (Benetton Rugby, debut)

17 Simone FERRARI (Benetton Rugby, 29 caps)

18 Pietro CECCARELLI (Brive, 9 caps)

19 David SISI (Zebre Rugby Club, 9 caps)

20 Johan MEYER (Zebre Rugby Club 4 caps)

21 Maxime MBANDA’ (Zebre Rugby Club, 20 caps)

22 Callum BRALEY (Benetton Rugby Club, 8 caps)

23 Federico MORI (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, debut)