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Matteo Minozzi returns for Italy

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2018 breakthrough star Mattteo Minozzi returns for Italy's warm-up fixtures

Three uncapped players have been included in Italy’s squad for their warm-up matches against Ireland and Russia, alongside 2018’s breakout star Matteo Minozzi.

Benetton front-rowers Marco Riccioni and Engjel Makelara could be set to make their debuts in the coming weeks, as well as Gloucester scrumhalf Callum Braley.

Hooker Makelara sneaks into the squad due to to centurion Leonardo Ghiraldini, who ruptured his knee ligaments in March but hasn’t been ruled out of taking part in the World Cup.

Braley, who made 11 appearances for the cherry-and-whites this season, qualifies through his Italian grandfather. The former England age-grade representative was called into the Italian squad at the end of last year but never got the chance to take the field.

Outside back Matteo Minozzi makes his return to the side after sitting out almost a whole season after he ruptured his ACL playing for Zebre part way through last year. Minozzi lit up the Six Nations in 2018 and was nominated for player of the tournament after scoring four tries in five matches.

“My objective was to be back for this but I had no idea if I would make it,” said Minozzi in June.

“It was a really hard journey, and it’s new for me.

“I’d got to the level I achieved up to then thanks to my talent but I’d never had to work as hard, to take as much care of myself.”

Minozzi now represents the Wasps but has yet to take the field for the Coventry-based side.

“These matches are crucial for achieving the objectives that we set ourselves for the Rugby World Cup,” Italy coach Conor O’Shea said of the upcoming fixtures.

“It is not an easy task for any player to start the season with a test match, but it is the challenge that all teams are facing. The boys have worked incredibly hard in the summer and now are ready for the matches.”

Stalwart Sergio Parisse will captain the Azzurri in their matches against Ireland on August 10 and Russia on August 17.

Italy squad:

Forwards

Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby, 22 caps)

Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 34 caps)

Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton Rugby, 18 caps)

Nicola Quaglio (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)

Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 0 caps)

Federico Zani (Benetton Rugby 7 caps)

Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 19 caps)

Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby Club, 7 caps)

Engjel Makelara (Benetton Rugby, 0 caps)

Dean Budd (Benetton Rugby, 20 caps)

Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)

Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)

David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 5 caps)

Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Rugby, 111 caps)

Renato Giammarioli (Zebre Rugby Club, 3 caps)

Giovanni Licata (Zebre Rugby Club, 7 caps)

Maxime Mbanda (Zebre Rugby Club, 16 caps)

Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 16 caps)

Sergio Parisse (Tolone, 138 caps)

Jake Polledri (Gloucester, 8 caps)

Abraham Steyn (Benetton Rugby, 30 caps)

Jimmy Tuivaiti (Zebre Rugby Club, 3 caps)

Backs

Callum Braley (Gloucester, 0 caps)

Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby Club, 31 caps)

Tito Tebaldi (Benetton Rugby, 32 caps)

Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 48 caps)

Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 32 caps)

Ian McKinley (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)

Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Rugby, 56 caps)

Michele Campagnaro (Harlequins, 42 caps)

Luca Morisi (Benetton Rugby, 25 caps)

Marco Zanon (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)

Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 17 caps)

Giulio Bisegni (Zebre Rugby Club, 11 caps)

Angelo Esposito (Benetton Rugby, 20 caps)

Jayden Hayward (Benetton Rugby, 17 caps)

Matteo Minozzi (Wasps, 10 caps)

Edoardo Padovani (Zebre Rugby Club, 20 caps)

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2018 breakthrough star Mattteo Minozzi returns for Italy's warm-up fixtures