Italy head to Twickenham this weekend looking to build on a promising display against Ireland when they take on England in Round Four of the Guinness Six Nations.
Conor O’Shea made three changes to his team with the return of Sergio Parisse to lead the side along with starts for Sebastian Negri and Luca Bigi.
However the game will also give winger Edoardo Padovani the chance to equal Matteo Minozzi’s record of scoring a try in four successive Championship games.
Zebre player Padovani has dotted down against Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and is enjoying a fine campaign in the more unfamiliar position of wing, having spent much of his career at full-back, including a short-lived stay with Toulon last year.
O’Shea explained: “Padovani on the wing? He had a difficult year in France but now he’s the player who I knew a few years ago. He’s a professional and has managed to adapt to the role, whether he’s on the wing or at full-back and I hope he can equal Minozzi’s record by scoring his fourth try.”
The returns of Parisse and Negri were expected after they recovered from a concussion and illness respectively.
However the decision to start Bigi was more of a surprise, with Leonardo Ghiraldini having captained the side last time out.
O’Shea explained that he expects both players to have a major role in the clash with England.
He said: “In terms of the decision to put Ghiraldini on the bench, Leo played very well in the first three games while Luca had a big impact when he came on during the games. Ghiraldini also played for his club Toulouse last weekend so it was important for him to regain some energy. I expect him to make a big impact off the bench.”
Still seeking a first win of the campaign, Italy have shown signs of progression in home defeats to Wales and Ireland.
They will now face the challenge of England at Twickenham, with Eddie Jones’ side looking to bounce back from defeat in Wales a fortnight ago.
O’Shea knows there is no silver bullet to solve the problems, but believes there have been signs in training that things are going in the right direction.
He said: “We have a big challenge in front of us and we will try to play our best rugby.
“We want to make it a habit producing performances of a certain level. We are raising the bar and in training you can see a lot of energy from the players. We don’t have the magic wand: everything takes time but the path we have undertaken is the right one.”