Preview: Italy v Georgia

There’s no time for rest in Italy’s hectic November Test programme as they prepare to take on Georgia for the first time since 2003.

There’s no time for rest in Italy’s hectic November Test programme as they prepare to take on Georgia for the first time since 2003.

In a clash between the sides ranked 13th and 14th in the world – Italy will be eager to record a victory over their European rivals on home soil.

In preparation for the tie at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has made a string of changes from last weekend’s 54-7 defeat to Ireland in Chicago, with ten players coming into the starting XV.

Leonardo Ghiraldini will captain the side on Saturday after missing out last time out as the Toulouse hooker comes into a new-look pack.

Abraham Steyn is the only forward to keep his place, but he will switch from blindside flanker to No.8.

Sebastian Negri and Jake Polledri start in the back row alongside Steyn, with Dean Budd and Alessandro Zanni in the second row.

Andrea Lovotti and Simone Ferrari will start at prop to bolster the Italian scrum, while Benetton duo Tommaso Allan and Tito Tebaldi are the half-backs and Tommaso Castello comes into the centres alongside Michele Campagnaro.

Two more players from the Ireland defeat, Luca Sperandio and Mattia Bellini, have been selected by O’Shea with the latter switching to left wing as Tommaso Benvenuti starts.

Georgia haven’t seen international action since suffering a 28-0 defeat to Japan in June and head coach Milton Haig has made a host of changes from that encounter.

With a side boasting a mighty 469 caps between them, only Vasil Lobzhanidze, Lasha Khmaladze and Soso Matiashvili will start in the backline from the defeat to Japan.

While in the forward pack Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Otar Giorgadze and Jaba Bregvadze are the sole survivors as Merab Sharikadze gets the nod to captain the Georgians.

Italy v Georgia, Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Saturday 10 November 2pm GMT   Conor O’Shea (Italy head coach) said: “We know the importance of this match.

“The team has recovered well from the flight back from the USA and we are ready to take on Georgia. It will be a very physical game.

“We want to be at our best for 80 minutes.”

“Georgia have been doing great work for years, but we need to think about our process, our path.”   Milton Haig (Georgia head coach) said: “Italy are a tier one rugby nation with a huge history in Test rugby, Georgia are the ‘new kids on the street’ trying to create their own history.

“It’s going to be a battle for sure, but we are always happy when we are in a battle, maybe that’s when we are happiest.

“We also clearly understand that we are the ‘underdogs’ going into the game, but it’s a position that we feel comfortable with.”   Key battle: Set-pieces

Both sides will go into this game knowing that the result could hinge on a successful set-piece to pull off the win.

Georgia and Italy pack an almighty punch in their forwards and the result could come down to who is able to dominate what will be inevitably eagerly-contested scrums and line-outs.

Conor O’Shea talked up Georgia’s physical prowess in the run-up to the game and it could be an area that both sides will look to exploit.

With experienced figures like Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Simone Ferrari and Alessandro Zanni marshalling the scrum, the Italians can certainly match the Georgian strength.   Stat watch

– Italy beat Georgia 31-22 in their last meeting in Asti in 2003. – Three years earlier an Italy XV got the better of Georgia in a 51-7 win in Livorno.   Italy: 15. Luca Sperandio, 14. Tommaso Benvenuti, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Tommaso Castello, 11. Mattia Bellini, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Tito Tebaldi, 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 3. Simone Ferrari, Alessandro Zanni, 5. Dean Budd, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Jake Polledri, 8. Abraham Steyn

Replacements: 16. Luca Bigi, 17. Cherif Traorè, 18. Tiziano Pasquali, 19. Marco Fuser, 20. Johan Meyer, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Carlo Canna, 23. Luca Morisi   Georgia: 15. Soso Matiashvili, 14. Giorgi Koshadze, 13. Merab Sharikadze (c), 12. Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 11. Zurab Dzneladze, 10. Lasha Khmaladze, 9. Vasil Lobzhanidze, 1. Mikheil Nariashvili, 2. Jaba Bregvadze, 3. Dudu Kubriashvili, 4. Nodar Tcheishvili, 5. Lasha Lomidze, 6. Otar Giorgadze, 7. Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 8. Beka Gorgadze

Replacements: 16. Shalva Mamukashvili, 17. Zurab Zhvania, 18. Levan Chilachava, 19. Shalva Sutiashvili, 20. Beka Bitsadze, 21. Gela Aprasidze, 22. Lasha Malaghuradze, 23. Giorgi Kveseladze