TOKYO (Reuters) - Jayden Hayward will make his first international start in the midfield after spending almost all of his test career as a fullback after Italy coach Conor O’Shea shook up his side for their World Cup Pool B clash with Canada on Thursday.
The New Zealand-born Hayward has played 21 tests for Italy since making his debut in 2017 after qualifying on residency grounds, with all but six of the appearances in the number 15 jersey.
He has played in the centres as a replacement in four matches.
The 32-year-old is one of only five players that started the Italian’s first World Cup match against Namibia on Sunday retained for Thursday’s match, with O’Shea forced to test his side’s depth given the short turnaround.
“It was a choice we made before the first match to balance out the teams over the two matches. We did it during the warm-up matches,” O’Shea said.
“I have confidence in all our players and all our players are worth a place in the team. This is the best team for the match.”
Hayward, hooker Luca Bigi, flyhalf Tommaso Allan, centre Tommaso Benvenuti and loose forward Braam Steyn also started against Namibia.
Of those five, only Allan and Bigi are starting in the same position. Benvenuti has shifted to wing for the Canada game, while Steyn moves from blindside flanker to number eight.
Tighthead prop Tiziano Pasquali was one enforced change after he was carried off in the 47-22 victory following a collision with captain Sergio Parisse, who has been rested.
Another New Zealand-born player, lock Dean Budd, will lead the team in his absence.
“Dean has twice captained the team,” O’Shea added.
“Sergio wanted to play and that is the same for all the players. Two matches in four days meant we had to use all our squad. He would be ready to play and was magnificent for us against Namibia but I want him at 100 per cent for every match.”
Budd’s fellow lock David Sisi will become the first German-born player to appear in a Rugby World Cup match.
Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Michele Campagnaro, 12-Jayden Hayward, 11-Giulio Bisegni, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Callum Braley, 8-Braam Steyn, 7-Jake Polledri, 6-Sebastian Negri, 5-Dean Budd (captain), 4-David Sisi, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Maxime Mbanda, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Mattia Bellini
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty