Rugby: Rugby-Debutants Menoncello and Halafihi to start for Italy against France


ROME (Reuters) – Italy head coach Kieran Crowley has named debutants Tommaso Menoncello and Toa Halafihi in a youthful Azzurri facet for their Six Nations opener against France in Paris on Sunday.

Benetton wing Menoncello, 19, makes the step up from Italy’s Under-20 facet, whereas his 28-year-old membership mate, New Zealand-born quantity eight Halafihi, lately certified for choice beneath residency guidelines.

Montpellier’s 21-year-old playmaker Paolo Garbisi begins at flyhalf with Gloucester man Stephen Varney, 20, inside him at scrumhalf, whereas captain Michele Lamaro, 23, is at openside.

Tighthead prop Tiziano Pasquali begins in what will likely be his first worldwide look because the 2019 Rugby World Cup, making up the entrance row with loosehead Danilo Fischetti and hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi.

There are two extra debutants, flanker Manuel Zuliani and flyhalf Leonardo Marin, in a 6-2 break up of forwards to backs on the bench.

“The work we have done in recent weeks in preparation for the Six Nations was intense and high quality,” Crowley stated.

“There is a lot of energy in the group and an awareness that they are taking to the pitch in one of the most important tournaments in the world of rugby and sport. The focus is on our performance: it will be important to stay calm in the key moments.”

Team: 15 – Edoardo Padovani, 14 – Tommaso Menoncello, 13 – Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 – Marco Zanon, 11 – Montanna Ioane, 10 – Paolo Garbisi, 9 – Stephen Varney, 8 – Toa Halafihi, 7 – Michele Lamaro, 6 – Sebastian Negri, 5 – Federico Ruzza, 4 – Niccolo Cannone, 3 – Tiziano Pasquali, 2 – Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 – Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16 – Epalahame Faiva, 17 – Ivan Nemer, 18 – Giosue Zilocchi, 19 – Marco Fuser, 20 – Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 – Manuel Zuliani, 22 – Callum Braley, 23 – Leonardo Marin

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis)

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