Italy coach Conor O’Shea says his team won’t be shying away from the challenge the Wallabies will present in Brisbane this weekend.
O’Shea has made three changes to the team that was narrowly beaten by Fiji in Suva last weekend, bringing scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi to the starting side for the first time in three years, with backrower Andries Van Schalkwyk at no. 8 and Marco Lazzaroni in line for a debut off the bench.
The Italy mentor said there was a mix of reasons for the changes.
“There’s an element of consistency,” he said.
“We talked about the nines at the start and we felt there’s a real competition for those, so we want to give everyone an equal opportunity.
“This is Tito’s chance to have a go and it’s getting that balance between consistency of selection but also freshening up the team.
“Hopefully Marco Lazzaroni comes off the bench and adds energy, in terms of getting a new cap.”
With injuries to a number of experienced players, including Brisbane-born Luke McLean, Italy has come into the June Series with a young squad, with an average age of 25, a situation not that far removed from the Wallabies’ own.
O’Shea’s side has shown it’s not afraid of the international heavyweights, pushing England in the Six Nations with a controversial, but legal, ruck tactic, and the Irishman said fear wouldn’t be creeping in on Saturday.
“We came so close - we should’ve beaten Fiji on the balance looking back on the game but we know this is a step up in class,” he said.
“We’ve a lot of changes to make, we’re on a huge growth curve in Italian rugby.
“Changes that should’ve been made years ago, we’re making now with group of young players who are learning a lot, getting better.
“This is a massive challenge, there’s no shirking it.
“We know how tough this is going to be - the Wallabies on a backlash but we’ll get up and I’ve said to our fellas, we’re going to take the game to them.
“There’s no point standing back, if we stand back it’s a disaster.
“Both sides of the ball, we have to take the game to them and play our way, not try and play the Wallabies’ way.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is wary of O’Shea’s innovative tactics and said they would need to be prepared for unorthodox measures at Suncorp.
“They've got a clever coaching team and they've done a lot of little things,” he said.
From that (ruck strategy), to two-man lineouts, they've got some very different switches back down the blindside, so we've got to be aware of all those things but not let that override playing our own game.”
The Wallabies take on Italy on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.
Italy to take on the Wallabies
1. Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby, 16 Caps)
3. Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby, 4 Caps)
5. Dean Budd (Benetton Rugby, 2 Caps)
6. Francesco Minto (Benetton Rugby, 35 Caps) - Capitano
7. Maxime Mbanda’ (Zebre Rugby, 10 Caps)
8. Andries Van Schalkwyk (Zebre Rugby, 14 Caps)
9.Tito Tebaldi (Benetton Rugby, 21 Caps)
10. Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 32 Caps)
12. Tommaso Boni (Zebre Rugby, 4 Caps)
13. Michele Campagnaro (Exeter Chiefs, 31 Caps)
14. Angelo Esposito (Benetton Rugby, 13 Caps)
15. Edoardo Padovani (Zebre Rugby, 13 Caps)
16. Ornel Gega (Benetton Rugby, 14 Caps)
17. Federico Zani (Benetton Rugby, 2 Caps)
18. Pietro Ceccarelli (Zebre Rugby, 8 Caps)
19. Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, Debutant)
20. Abraham Steyn (Benetton Rugby, 13 Caps)
21. Edoardo Gori (Benetton Rugby, 62 Caps)
22. Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby, 21 Caps)
23. Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Rugby, 44 Caps)