Rugby: Italy make three changes in team to face France


ROME (Reuters) - Italy recalled winger Luca Sperandio for the first time in almost two years as they made three changes to their Autumn Nations Cup team to play France in Paris on Saturday.

The 24-year-old Sperandio, who won the last of his six caps against France in Rome in March, 2019, replaces Mattia Bellini.

Braam Steyn moves to No. 8 in place of the injured Jake Polledri with Maxime Mbanda and Johan Meyer coming in onto the flanks. Mbanda starts a game for Italy for the first time since last year’s World Cup after Sebastien Negri pulled out with an adductor injury.

Cristian Stoian, born in Moldova but an Italian junior international lock, is one of two uncapped players on the bench along with flanker Michele Lamaro.

Italy last played a fortnight ago in the Autumn Nations Cup, losing 28-17 at home to Scotland, but had their second game against Fiji cancelled because of mass COVID-19 infections in the Pacific Islanders camp.

"We had extra days to better prepare for this meeting," said coach Franco Smith as he named the team on Thursday.

"Last week’s cancellation increased our desire to take the field on Saturday against France.

"It will be an intense match where we will have the opportunity to see other interesting youngsters at work as we continue our path of expanding the base at our disposal and building a DNA," said Smith.

Team:

15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Jacopo Trulla, 13-Marco Zanon, 12-Carlo Canna, 11-Luca Sperandio, 10-Paolo Garbisi, 9-Marcello Violi, 8- Braam Steyn, 7-Johan Meyer, 6-Maxime Mbanda, 5-Niccolo Cannone, 4-Marco Lazzaroni, 3-Giosue Zilocchi, 2-Luca Bigi (capt), 1-Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17-Simone Ferrari, 18-Pietro Ceccarelli, 19-Cristian Stoian, 20-Michele Lamoro, 21-Stephen Varney, 22-Tomasso Allan, 23-Federico Mori.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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