Varney returns as Italy make five changes for Wales

Stephen Varney is fit to start at scrum-half as his return is one of five changes Italy have made to take on Wales this weekend.

Stephen Varney is fit to start at scrum-half as his return is one of five changes Italy have made to take on Wales this weekend.

Varney was scheduled to start at No.9 for the third consecutive game when the Azzurri faced Ireland in Round 3 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations but an injury sustained during the warm-up ruled him out.

However, the Gloucester Rugby star has recovered to re-form his exciting half-back partnership with Paolo Garbisi in Rome this weekend, while winger Mattia Bellini comes in for Luca Sperandio – ruled out for the rest of the Championship with a head injury – as the only other alteration to the back line.

That means there are three changes in the pack, with two of those in the front row – Danilo Fischetti and Giosuè Zilocchi forming an all-new prop pairing either side of skipper Luca Bigi at the Stadio Olimpico.

Niccolò Cannone, who made his international debut against Wales in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, is preferred to Marco Lazzaroni at lock, while an unchanged trio of Seb Negri, Johan Meyer and Michele Lamaro will be tasked with keeping Wales’s talented back row quiet.

Italy are gunning for a first victory of the 2021 Championship this weekend and head coach Franco Smith is excited by the challenge of facing a team with three wins from three, who are still very much hunting a Grand Slam.

“We are ready to continue our journey facing a team that is aiming to win the Championship,” said Smith.

“We are meeting our goal: to improve our performances and to become more and more competitive match after match. Every week we’re together, staff and players, we are working hard to win.”

Italy team to face Wales in Round 4 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations 15 Jacopo Trulla (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 6 caps) 14 Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 29 caps) 13 Juan Ignacio Brex (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps) 12 Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 50 caps) 11 Montanna Ioane (Benetton Rugby, 4 caps) 10 Paolo Garbisi (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps) 9 Stephen Varney (Gloucester Rugby, 5 caps) 1 Danilo Fischetti (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps) 2 Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 35 caps) – Captain 3 Giosuè Zilocchi (Zebre Rugby Club, 13 caps) 4 Niccolò Cannone (Benetton Rugby, 11 caps) 5 David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 14 caps) 6 Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 31 caps) 7 Johan Meyer (Zebre Rugby Club, 12 caps) 8 Michele Lamaro (Benetton Rugby, 5 caps)

Replacements 16 Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps) 17 Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 45 caps) 18 Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 13 caps) 19 Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 14 caps) 20 Maxime Mbanda (Zebre Rugby Club, 27 caps) 21 Marcello Violi (Zebre Rugby Club, 19 caps) 22 Federico Mori (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 7 caps) 23 Edoardo Padovani (Benetton Rugby, 26 caps)