LONDON (Reuters) - Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini will captain Italy in Sergio Parisse’s absence for their Rugby World Cup Pool D opener against France at Twickenham on Saturday.
Parisse has been given more time to recover from having fluid drained from his leg following their final warm-up game against Wales.
Samuela Vunisa shifts from openside flanker to replace Parisse at number eight and coach Jacques Brunel is confident he has an able deputy.
“He was the strongest replacement and has played this role before. (Alessandro) Zanni has a bit, but not as much. The main responsibility for the number eight comes in the scrum and France’s scrum is one of the strongest around,” Brunel told a news conference on Thursday.
The loss of talisman Parisse is a big blow to the Italians but Brunel said his side must step up.
“We have to respond as a squad and the other players have to fulfill their roles, not just the experienced players, but everyone,” he said.
“Our halfbacks are young and while they still have to develop, this is a chance to show their quality.”
Italy team: 15-Luke McLean, 14-Leonardo Sarto, 13-Michele Campagnaro, 12-Andrea Masi, 11-Giovanbattista Venditti, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Edoardo Gori; 8-Samuela Vunisa, 7-Francesco Minto, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 5-Josh Furno, 4-Quintin Geldenhays, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1-Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16-Andrea Manici, 17-Michele Rizzo, 18-Lorenzo Cittadini, 19-Valerio Bernabo, 20-Simone Favaro, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Enrico Bacchin
Writing by Justin Palmer; editing by Ed Osmond