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19-year-old Welshman to make his first Italy start this weekend... against Wales

By PA

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Wales-born Stephen Varney will make a first Test start for Italy in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash against the country of his birth. The Gloucester scrum-half was brought up in Pembrokeshire, but he qualifies for Italy through family connections on his mother’s side.

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Varney, 19, made appearances off the bench in Italy’s Nations Cup games against Scotland and France last month. But the Scarlets academy product, whose father Adrian played as a flanker for Neath and Aberavon, will now line up from the start against Wales in Llanelli when both countries conclude their autumn fixtures.

Varney said: “We found out yesterday at the start of training and after training, I rang them to tell them and they are super proud. They were very emotional. They’re very proud parents and my grandparents are also very proud. It will be emotional for them. All my family in Italy are also very proud, they’re posting a lot of stuff.”

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Dylan Hartley and Jamie Roberts talk Autumn Nations Cup and what could make rugby a better spectacle
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Dylan Hartley and Jamie Roberts talk Autumn Nations Cup and what could make rugby a better spectacle

The teenager admitted there is likely to be a certain emotional conflict when he hears the Welsh national anthem but no qualms about giving his all for Italy. “There probably will be but I think that’s natural,” he said. “But I made the decision myself and I have no regrets. It will be emotional but at the end of the day I chose to play for Italy so that’s where my loyalties lie now.”

Elsewhere, Italy head coach Franco Smith has handed a Test debut to wing Monty Ioane, the nephew of former Wallabies winger Digby Ioane, while Jacopo Trulla moves to full-back in a Nations Cup finale where Wales and Italy are playing for fifth place.

“We want to end the tournament in the best possible way,” Smith told the Italian Rugby Federation’s website. “We have a new opportunity to be able to take the field and try to show our worth. Wales are an experienced team and need no introduction, and the focus must be on our performance.”

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ITALY (vs Wales, Saturday)
15 Jacopo TRULLA (Calvisano, 2 caps)
14 Luca SPERANDIO (Benetton, 7 caps)
13 Marco ZANON (Benetton, 3 caps)
12 Carlo CANNA (Zebre, 46 caps)
11 Montanna IOANE (Benetton, uncapped)
10 Paolo GARBISI (Benetton, 4 caps)
9 Stephen VARNEY (Gloucester, 2 caps)
8 Braam STEYN (Benetton, 43 caps)
7 Johan MEYER (Zebre, 8 caps)
6 Maxime MBANDA (Zebre, 24 caps)
5 Niccolò CANNONE (Benetton, 7 caps)
4 Marco LAZZARONI (Benetton, 10 caps)
3 Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Zebre, 9 caps)
2 Luca BIGI (Zebre, 31 caps) – captain
1 Danilo FISCHETTI (Zebre, 7 caps)

Replacements
16 Leonardo GHIRALDINI (unattached, 106 caps)
17 Simone FERRARI (Benetton, 33 caps)
18 Pietro CECCARELLI (Brive, 13 caps)
19 Cristian STOIAN (Fiamme Oro Rugby, 1 cap)
20 Michele LAMARO (Benetton, 1 cap)
21 Guglielmo PALAZZANI (Zebre, 40 caps)
22 Tommaso ALLAN (Benetton, 59 caps)
23 Federico MORI (Calvisano, 4 caps)

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19-year-old Welshman to make his first Italy start this weekend... against Wales

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