Italy are expecting a tough challenge from Ireland when the two teams meet in Dublin on Saturday according to winger Edoardo Padovani.
The 26-year-old from Zebre enjoyed a strong Guinness Six Nations campaign, scoring three tries including one against Ireland in Rome.
He will be hoping to add to that as the Azzurri begin their warm-ups ahead of the World Cup in Japan.
And Padovani believes the encounter at the Aviva Stadium is the perfect opportunity to gauge where the team stands after two months of intense training.
He said: “We are preparing the best we can for the first game of the season.
“We know Ireland well and we know that it will not be an easy game: we will be immediately up against an important benchmark to understand where we are in our work. We want to show our worth on the pitch and like all my teammates, earning a place in the 31 for the World Cup is of course an objective.
“We have a group with lots of players and whoever ends up in the final squad will no doubt be up to the challenge.”
Padovani is one of six back three options in the squad for the Ireland clash, with Conor O’Shea currently working with 38 players to prepare for the Ireland match.
Two men who will not take part in the World Cup are Tommaso Castello and Marcello Violi, both ruled out through injury.
However Benetton fly-half Ian McKinley is fit and looking to prove himself as he bids to be selected for his first World Cup.
He added: “We have done a lot of work over the last two months and now the second important preparation phase begins for the World Cup. We are expecting a very difficult game against Ireland.
“Joe Schmidt’s team, like us, comes into this game with lots of players fighting for a place at the World Cup, which is a factor that adds extra spark to a game that was already very interesting.”