NEW COACH Conor O’Shea has revealed he plans to create the best Italy team in history, as his injury-hit squad prepares for a one-off Test against Argentina on Saturday.
O’Shea is without experienced tight head prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who was suspended by Racing 92 after being pictured partying in Las Vegas having told his club he could not play in a European Champions Cup semi-final due to a family matter.
Captain Sergio Parisse has also been rested, with Leonardo Sarto, David Odiete, Andrea Lovotti and Quintin Geldenhuys the only survivors from a 67-14 Six Nations hammering at the hands of Wales in March.
But O’Shea is positive about the future of his young squad.
“I want this to be the best Italian team ever,” the Irish coach said. “I played against a fantastic Italian team in the 1990s and I think we can become even better than that team.
“Italy always start fast but as the match progresses they get slower and slower. We have to change that and identify the players who can help us.
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“I love my teams to play with the ball in hand, but you cannot do that, for example, if you cannot make your tackles.”
Argentina, Rugby World Cup semi-finalists in 2015, have also freshened up their squad, with Daniel Hourcade selecting only home-based players.
Toulon back-rower Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is therefore omitted, while Manuel Montero makes his return after a spell out of the Pumas side. Tomas Lezana and Pablo Matera are also included in the Argentina team.
Despite Argentina winning five Tests in a row against Italy, Hourcade is expecting a difficult match.