Italy are still chasing their first win of this year’s NatWest 6 Nations and their job does not get any easier this week.
Never before have the Azzurri won in Cardiff and Conor O’Shea has named a side to try and re-write the history books on Sunday.
Click here to view the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture list
Here’s a few things we learned from Friday’s team announcement. WELCOME BACK BISEGNI Zebre’s Giulio Bisegni has not appeared for Italy in over a year – his last showing came on the wing against England in their defeat in last year’s Championship.
In his first seven caps he has featured exclusively on the wing but he will be at No.13 on Sunday in Cardiff. Tommaso Boni’s injury has created a chance and Bisegni’s form for Zebre gives him his chance.
And he will be going up against a familiar face from the Guinness PRO14 in Owen Watkin, who is even less experienced than Bisegni in what could be a compelling battle.
Click here for the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations table before round three
Back in 2014, Italy gave Wales a real scare on the opening weekend in Cardiff thanks to two Michele Campagnaro scores and Bisegni would love to have the same impact at No.13 as his compatriot. LICATA’S LICENCE TO THRILL Giovanni Licata appeared in three of Italy’s game during the autumn but is yet to make his Championship debut.
But the back-rower could be in line for his maiden outing this weekend after being named on the bench for the Azzurri’s trip to Wales.
The back row of Sergio Parisse, Seb Negri and Maxime Mbanda remains unchanged from the trip to Marseille in round three.
But it is Licata who has moved ahead of Braam Steyn and Renato Giammarioli and will provide the bench cover in Cardiff. GUGLIELMO’S GOOD TO GO The injury to Edoardo Gori – so impressive off the bench in the first three rounds for Italy – is a blow for O’Shea and the Azzurri.
But in Guglielmo Palazzani they have plenty of experience to call upon – even if this will be his first appearance in the matchday 23 of this year’s Championship.
The 26-year-old has won 22 caps for his country – his last start actually came in Cardiff two years ago in a try-scoring showing – and his fine recent form for Zebre means he could be a key figure if introduced off the bench. FABIANI’S FIRST STEPS Oliviero Fabiani has not appeared for his country since 2016 – all four of his international outings coming off the bench so far in his career.
But, like Palazzani, he has experience in Cardiff after coming off the bench in their 67-14 thumping two years ago in the final round of games.
Another man to catch the eye as Zebre have found some form in recent weeks domestically, the hooker replaces Luca Bigi on the replacements bench.
While their last trip to Cardiff ended in defeat, they can take heart from running Wales very close back in 2014 and earning a draw back in 2006.