O’Shea using mainly Italy-based players for Fiji test
CATANIA, Sicily (AP) — Italy coach Conor O’Shea has opted mainly for players in the domestic championship for the match against Fiji on Saturday.
All but two of Italy’s starting XV play for Benetton Treviso or Zebre.
Captain Sergio Parisse plays for Stade Francais, and Leonardo Sarto for Glasgow Warriors.
“I’m excited for this first challenge of the season, happy with the preparation work we have done so far,” O’Shea said Thursday. “Zebre and Treviso have started with some interesting performances and looking at the team we have chosen for Saturday’s match I think there is a great group, an interesting mix between our two franchises and the overseas players.
“We are working hard with these guys and I think the future for us can be positive.”
O’Shea handed a debut to Benetton fullback Jayden Hayward, who is originally from New Zealand but qualifies for Italy through residency.
Ian McKinley, Giovanni Licata and Matteo Minozzi could make their debuts off the bench.
If McKinley plays, it would be another milestone in his remarkable recovery from losing the sight in one eye.
During a club rugby game in 2010 a teammate accidentally stood on McKinley’s eye and perforated his eyball. The Dubliner was forced to retire the following year after losing the sight in his left eye.
McKinley returned to playing rugby in 2014 using specially manufactured goggles and played for Viadana and Zebre before joining Benetton in 2016.
Zebre wing Mattia Bellini returns after more than 18 months out with a knee ligament injury.
Italy was beaten by Fiji 22-19 in June, following a dramatic finale in which Ben Volavola kick a dropped goal two minutes into injury time.
While the Azzurri will be keen to avenge that defeat, O’Shea has against highlighted that the performance matters more than the result.
“We certainly want to win but our focus must be on the performance, not on the result,” O’Shea said “We don’t control the scoreboard, but we have to have our game plan, what we can do on the pitch and how we can do it, clear in our heads. If we manage to control our rugby in the right way, maybe we can win the game.”
Italy: Jayden Hayward, Leonardo Sarto, Tommaso Boni, Tomasso Castello, Mattia Bellini, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi; Sergio Parisse (captain), Abraham Steyn, Francesco Minto, Dean Budd, Marco Fuser, Simone Ferrari, Luca Bigi, Andrea Lovotti. Reserves: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Federico Zani, Dario Chistolini, Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Licara, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Matteo Minozzi.
Fiji: Kini Murimuriwalu, Josua Tuisova, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Jale Vatubua, Timoci Nagusa, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani, Nemani Nagusa, Akapusi Qera, Semi Kunatani, Leone Nakarawa, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Manasa Saulo, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Campese Ma’afu. Reserves: Sunia Koto, Peni Ravai, Ropate Rinakama, Sikeli Nabou, Mosese Voka, Henry Seniloli, Levani Botia, Vereniki Goneva.