Rolling out the red carpet for Scotland for their final match of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations, Italy go looking go looking to end their campaign on a high.
Conor O’Shea’s troops have yet to get themselves off the mark, having suffered four defeats from four so far, but they have one final assignment against second-from-bottom Scotland and an opportunity to delight supporters in Rome.
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Here are the main talking points from the Azzurri’s team announcement ahead of their Round Five clash with the Scots.
History beckons for Parisse
An Italy international since the age of 18, Sergio Parisse is set to hit a personal landmark when he leads his countrymen into battle against Scotland in Round Five of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations.
The 34-year-old, a stalwart at No.8, is set for his 65th outing in Rugby’s Greatest Championship and that will see him match the all-time appearance record currently held by legendary former Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll.
Parisse earned his 50th Italy cap in the 2008 Championship and has played every minute for his side at the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations so far, with his watershed moment set to arrive at the Stadio Olimpico.
Jake prepares to be blooded
As Parisse’s international career hits new heights, one Azzurri is set to pen the opening chapter of his own. Gloucester’s Jake Polledri has been named at openside flanker and the Bristol-born player is set to start in the back row alongside fellow Hartpury College alumni Sebastian Negri.
Polledri was a travelling reserve when Italy were beaten 38-14 by Wales last time out but has been given the nod as Conor O’Shea made just a single change to his starting XV.
Shuffling the pack
With Azurri head coach O’Shea making just the one change to his starting line-up, you have to look to the Italian bench for any further movement.
Braam Steyn didn’t feature against Wales but the flanker has been restored to the bench, with Federico Ruzza dropping out of the matchday squad altogether.
Jayden Hayward was the very first replacement O’Shea called for against Wales when he came on for Tommaso Castello with just four minutes on the clock but the 31-year-old, who made his Italy debut in last year’s November internationals, has to settle for a spot on the bench again.