February 8, 2018 / 2:44 PM / 17 days ago

Rugby - No place for romance as Italy ring changes

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Prop Nicola Quaglio will make his first start for Italy in one of three changes announced by coach Conor O’Shea on Thursday to the team for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland in Dublin.

Loose forward Braham Steyn, who played in all last year’s Six Nations games, returns to the openside and Luca Biga is preferred to the more experienced Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker after Italy were beaten by England 46-15 in Rome on Sunday.

Quaglio, after three appearances off the bench, comes in for Andrea Lovotti while Steyn replaces youngster Renato Giammarioli in a strengthening of the scrum.

There was no place in the squad for Irish-born flyhalf Ian McKinley, who made his international debut for Italy in November after losing the sight in one eye when hit by a stray boot in a club match in Ireland in 2010.

He quit the game for four years but Italy offered him the opportunity to play with goggles and he earned a test cap.

McKinley will travel to Dublin for the test but was not picked in the matchday 23.

“The romance is there but he is not here to be picked on romance,” O‘Shea told a news conference.

”He has been unbelievable for us this week, he is pushing things on. He was disappointed because he wanted to play. I knew it would mean a lot to him. But he is a rugby player, not a story and he wants to be picked because he is the number one player.

”Sport is full of romance but the hard-nosed side of it is the guy who has the jersey is playing well and the next guy in is a points machine. I wanted to pick him in so many ways but what message does that send to other players?

”It’s an amazing story, he is a force of nature. I‘m sure this set-back will steel him even further and given the way he has responded to set-backs in the past,” added the Italy coach, himself a former Ireland international

Italy are seeking only their second Six Nations triumph over Ireland, who have won 17 of the 18 past tournament clashes between the sides. Ireland eased to a 63-10 win over the Italians in Rome last year.

Ireland team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Tommaso Boni, 12-Tomasso Castello, 11-Mattia Bellini, 10-Tomasso Allan, 9-Marcello Violi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Braham Steyn, 6-Sebastian Negri, 5-Dean Budd, 4-Alessandro Zanni, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Nicola Quaglio Replacements: 16-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17-Andrea Lovotti, 18-Tiziano Pasquali, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Maxime Mbanda, 21-Edoardo Gori, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Jayden Hayward

Reporting by Mark Gleeson,; Editing by Ed Osmond

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