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Projected Starter Series: Italy

Projected Starter Series: Italy

Italy Fischetti Lamaro

Under Kieran Crowley, Italy have won three of their last four Tests and enjoyed a resurgence that they will be desperate to continue in the Autumn Nations Series.

After getting the monkey of ending their Guinness Six Nations losing streak off their backs, the Azzurri got the better of Portugal and Romania in the summer before defeat to Georgia.

Their Autumn Nations Series schedule is not easy, with in-form Samoa followed by Australia and then world champions South Africa.

But with the young talent that was thrown in at the deep end in 2020 now starting to find their feet, this could be the chance for Italy to kick on.

The question is, how will they line up? We have had a go at working it out.

Front row

Crowley has used plenty of different players over the past 12 months in the front row, but considering how influential he was in that win over Wales in March, it is hard to see anyone other than Danilo Fischetti starting at loosehead.

Ivan Nemer feels like the most likely option off the bench, while at tighthead, Simone Ferrari started all three summer Tests, with Ion Neculai making a strong start to his Test career as the replacement.

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Hooker is a question of youth against experience. Veteran Luca Bigi is back in the squad, but will have to battle for a place in the 23 ahead of youngsters Gianmarco Lucchesi and Giacomo Nicotera.

At this point, it feels like Lucchesi is the man in possession, but that could all change.

Second row

The battle to start in the second row would appear to be a three-horse race, with Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza and Marco Fuser having started six, five and three Tests between them this year.

Italy

Cannone and Fuser appeared to be the go-to option in the summer, with Ruzza used in the back row, and that may continue.

However, with plenty of competition in the back row, Ruzza’s dynamism at lock could come in useful, while Zebre skipper David Sisi and the uncapped Gabriele Venditti will hope to force their way into the reckoning.

Back row

Skipper Michele Lamaro will start in the back row, but after that, the combinations are endless. It feels like Toa Halafihi is probably the most likely option at No.8 although uncapped youngster Luca Andreani might fancy his chances of taking that jersey.

That would leave the likes of Sebastian Negri, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani and Lorenzo Cannone all fighting for one spot – unless Crowley decides to stick with Ruzza there.

It really is a tricky one to predict, but at this stage, we’ll go for Pettinelli who looks like the coming man for Benetton and Italy.

Scrum-half

Another question mark, Stephen Varney looked to have established himself over the last two years, but his place is now under threat, with four scrum-halves named in the squad.

With Varney struggling for game time at Gloucester, Alessandro Garbisi seems the best bet to build on his performances in the summer – and to start a Test alongside his brother for the first time…

Fly-half

Due to club commitments with Montpellier, Paolo Garbisi was not able to join Italy until quite late this summer, and was therefore used only off the bench.

He should take back his starting role from Tommaso Allan though, and potentially combine with his brother as a result.

While Leonardo Marin is also a ten by trade, the likelihood is he will start in the centres.

Centres

The go-to pairing in the Guinness Six Nations was Marin and Ignacio Brex, and that feels like the most obvious combination here.

Marco Zanon will push for a start, while Michele Campagnaro’s return is both welcome and unexpected, having not featured since the 2019 World Cup.

There is also the possibility of shifting Tommaso Menoncello into the centres, where he played in the summer, but the need may be greater out wide.

Back three

Capable of playing on the wing or at full-back, the only certainty is that Ange Capuozzo has to start. Realistically, it makes sense for him to take the No.15 jersey.

That would leave two spots on the wing, with the aforementioned Menoncello potentially starting on one side and Pierre Bruno on the other.

But do not count out Monty Ioane, now based back in Australia but part of the squad and a guaranteed starter before his break from the game.

Potential Italy team for the Autumn Nations Series

15 Ange Capuozzo
14 Pierre Bruno
13 Ignacio Brex
12 Leonardo Marin
11 Tommaso Menoncello
10 Paolo Garbisi
9 Alessandro Garbisi

1 Danilo Fischetti
2 Gianmarco Lucchesi
3 Simone Ferrari
4 Niccolò Cannone
5 Marco Fuser
6 Giovanni Pettinelli
7 Michele Lamaro
8 Toa Halafihi

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