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Italy name six uncapped players in a 33-strong Six Nations squad

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Former All Blacks full-back Kieran Crowley has named a 33-strong Italy squad for his first Guinness Six Nations in charge of the Azzurri, a selection that includes six uncapped players. Having been in charge for five seasons at Benetton, it is no surprise that the Kiwi has leaned heavily on that franchise as his old club provides 23 players. 

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Of the other ten, six hail from Zebre, the other Italian franchise, with just four players included who currently ply their trade with clubs outside the country – Top 14 trio Pietro Ceccarelli (Brive), Paolo Garbisi (Montpellier) and Federico Mori (Bordeaux), and Stephen Varney from Gloucester in the Gallagher Premiership.  

Looking at the newcomers, an intriguing pick is Crowley’s fellow countryman Toa Halafihi. The 28-year-old New Zealander back row came through the ranks at Taranaki before a one-season stay was followed by a switch to Benetton where he has gone on to qualify for Italy under the residency rules and has impressed this season with his defence. 

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It was rumoured last month that veteran Sergio Parisse could be in long for one last hurrah as he had just returned at Toulon after injury. Having been denied a World Cup send-off versus the All Blacks due to the October 2019 match getting cancelled due to a typhoon, the 38-year-old recently revealed he had been talking with Crowley about a possible return but that has not materialised. 

Italy suffered defeats to the All Blacks and Argentina in the opening Autumn Nations series matches but they signed off with a win over Uruguay and Crowley now wants to build on that success in a Six Nations that gets underway with a February 6 trip to France that will be followed by the February 13 visit by England to Rome.

“Let’s start again from the victory against Uruguay,” said Crowley. “We have five important matches ahead of us in a tournament that represents a moment of the season that all rugby professionals and fans look forward to with great interest. 

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“We will continue our path of strengthening the team identity by trying to improve the mechanisms in our game, especially in the first part of the Verona camp which will be fundamental in preparation for the debut at the Six Nations against France.”

ITALY SIX NATIONS SQUAD 2022
PROP (6)
Pietro CECCARELLI (Brive, 17 caps)
Danilo FISCHETTI (Zebre Parma, 15 caps)
Ivan NEMER (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)
Tiziano PASQUALI (Benetton Rugby, 21 caps)
Cherif TRAORE (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)
Giosuè ZILOCCHI (Zebre Parma, 15 caps)

HOOKER (3)
Epalahame FAIVA (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)
Gianmarco LUCCHESI (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)
Giacomo NICOTERA (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)

SECOND ROW (4)
Niccolò CANNONE (Benetton Rugby, 15 caps)
Marco FUSER (Newcastle Falcons, 36 caps)
Federico RUZZA (Benetton Rugby, 25 caps)
David SISI (Zebre Parma, 18 caps)

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BACK ROW (6)
Toa HALAFIHI (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)
Michele LAMARO (Benetton Rugby, 10 caps) – captain
Sebastian NEGRI (Benetton Rugby, 36 caps)
Giovanni PETTINELLI (Benetton Rugby, 1 cap)
Braam STEYN (Benetton Rugby, 46 caps)
Manuel ZULIANI (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)

SCRUM-HALF (3)
Callum BRALEY (Benetton Rugby, 12 caps)
Alessandro FUSCO (Fiamme Oro Rugby/Zebre Parma, 2 caps)
Stephen VARNEY (Gloucester Rugby, 9 caps)

OUT-HALF (3)
Giacomo DA RE (FEMI-CZ Rovigo/Benetton Rugby, uncaped)
Paolo GARBISI (Montpellier, 13 caps)
Leonardo MARIN (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)

CENTRE (3)
Juan Ignacio BREX (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)
Luca MORISI (Benetton Rugby, 36 caps)
Marco ZANON (Benetton Rugby, 7 caps)

BACK THREE (5)
Pierre BRUNO (Zebre Parma, 1 cap)
Montanna IOANE (Benetton Rugby, 9 caps)
Tommaso MENONCELLO (Benetton Rugby, uncapped)
Federico MORI (Bordeaux, 11 caps)
Edoardo PADOVANI (Benetton Rugby, 30 caps)

Not considered because of injury: Riccardo Favretto (Benetton Rugby) Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby), Johan Meyer (Zebre Parma), Matteo Nocera (Fiamme Oro Rugby/Zebre Parma) Jake Polledri (Gloucester), Marco Riccioni (Saracens)

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