(Reuters) - Italy coach Franco Smith has named uncapped lock Niccolo Cannone in his starting line-up to face Wales in their Six Nations opener at the Principality Stadium on Saturday while wing Leonardo Sarto earns a recall.
Cannone, a 21-year-old former junior international who switched from prop to lock early in his career, will play alongside 117-cap veteran Alessandro Zanni in the second row.
Props Giosue Zilocchi and Andrea Lovotti both start in the front row with new captain Luca Bigi at hooker as Italy chase their first victory in Cardiff.
Bigi takes over the leadership of the side from stalwart Sergio Parisse, who ended his 17-year career with Italy at the World Cup in Japan.
Sarto, meanwhile, will play his first test since November 2017, lining up alongside fellow wing Mattia Bellini and fullback Matteo Minozzi.
“We have worked a lot these days, on and off the pitch, in full synergy with all the staff and players,” South African coach Smith said.
“We know our potential and what we can give. I have faith in the team and can’t wait to see them on the pitch against Wales.”
Italy have won just two of their previous 27 tests against Wales, with their last success in 2007.
Braam Steyn will start at number eight, with Sebastian Negri and Jake Polledri either side of him in the back row.
Italy’s half-back pairing contains Tommaso Allan and Callum Braley while centres Luca Morisi and Carlo Canna join forces in the midfield.
Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Leonardo Sarto, 13- Luca Morisi, 12-Carlo Canna, 11-Mattia Bellini, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Callum Braley, 8-Braam Steyn, 7-Sebastian Negri, 6-Jake Polledri, 5-Niccolo Cannone, 4-Alessandro Zanni, 3-Giosue Zilocchi, 2-Luca Bigi (captain), 1-Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Danilo Fischetti, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Dean Budd, 20-Marco Lazzaroni, 21-Giovanni Licata, 22-Guglielmo Palazzani, 23-Jayden Hayward.
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by David Goodman