Guinness Six Nations Fantasy Rugby returns for the 2019 edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship, with the lowdown on the best picks from each nation available here.
Participants have got the chance to win store vouchers and tickets for 2020, as well as bragging rights over their mates.
Now we take a look at Conor O’Shea’s Italy who are looking to claim their first win in the Championship in his third year at the helm.
O’Shea’s 31-man squad includes the returning skipper Sergio Parisse who has not appeared for his country since the 2018 Championship.
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But while the Stade Francais No.8’s return is an undoubted boost, the real optimism this year for the Azzurri surrounds the form of Benetton Rugby.
The Italian outift have won five in a row in the Guinness PRO14 of late and are pushing hard for a first-ever play-off spot.
The likes of Dean Budd, Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan have all been key to the club’s form and will be itching to translate it to the international stage.
WHAT’S THE SCHEDULE?
Italy have not won at home in Rome in this Championship since 2013 – but that year they claimed impressive wins over both France and Ireland.
The men in green need to repeat that form this year but they begin their Championship with a trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland – the Azzurri won there back in 2015.
In Rounds 2 and 3 Wales and Ireland both come to the Eternal City before Round 4 sees them head to Twickenham to take on England.
Round 5 and Super Saturday will see the Italians return home to take on France.
PREMIUM PICKS AND MUST HAVES
All things being well, Parisse will break the Guinness Six Nations appearance record this season.
Now at the age of 35, his price of only 12 stars makes him a very attractive option still.
He is always a man of the match candidate – leading as he does by example – and saves his best for Italy in the Guinness Six Nations every year.
And with eight back-row forwards now more expensive than Parisse – he is a must-have in your pack.
The breakout star last year was Seb Negri – seen by many as Parisse’s heir apparent.
He caught the eye at blindside flanker but remains in this game as a lock – a real treat for the eagle-eyed players as he roams around the park getting plenty more carries in than your average lock.
And at only 11 stars – there are a jaw dropping 16 locks more expensive than him in the game. A total bargain.
The absence of Jake Polledri has opened up a whole in the Italian back row.
And tackling machine Maxime Mbanda at only eight stars is worth a look should he make a matchday 23.
Elsewhere, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Simone Ferrari are also surefire starters in the front row but the real value looks to be in the backline.
Experienced scrum-half Tito Tebaldi has come back into favour of late for the Azzurri and served notice of his form with a hat-trick earlier this month on club duty.
At only ten stars, he could have a real impact on this game, as could another returnee in Michele Campagnaro who has bounced back from injury and looks to be approaching his best again with Wasps.
In the back three Luca Sperandio is an exciting young talent, and cheap at the price of only nine stars while Edoardo Padovani is in the game as a fly-half but if selected is more likely to be given room to run in the back three.