Conor O’Shea has picked an Italy team for Saturday’s clash with England that he believes is capable of causing the greatest upset in Guinness Six Nations history.
The Azzurri have lost their last 20 matches in the Championship and have suffered defeat in all 24 previous meetings with England, statistics that have installed them as 60-1 underdogs to prevail this weekend.
O’Shea has made three changes to his starting XV for the Twickenham showdown, headlined by captain Sergio Parisse recovering from concussion to reclaim the number eight jersey.
Sebastian Negri has recovered from illness to slot in at blindside flanker and Luca Bigi displaces the tired Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker.
“This is an Italy team that’s preparing to win. Everybody thinks we’re delusional. But we’re sports people, we’re competitive people,” head coach O’Shea said.
“I’ve said to the players I don’t want them to even think about the result, their job is to deliver a performance of intensity, physicality and ambition.
“I’ll say ambition 20 times because I want them to go out and play. I’ll take the flak for any results.
“The big thing is to get the confidence to win and get the energy that comes with that.
“We have to dust ourselves down every time and come back. This is a massive ask but I can’t wait for this weekend.”
Italy team: J Hayward (Benetton Rugby); E Padovani (Zebre Rugby Club), M Campagnaro (Wasps), L Morisi (Benetton Rugby), A Esposito (Benetton Rugby);
T Allan (Benetton Rugby), T Tebaldi (Benetton Rugby), A Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club), L Bigi (Benetton Rugby), S Ferrari (Benetton Rugby), F Ruzza (Benetton Rugby), D Budd (Benetton Rugby), S Negri (Benetton Rugby), B Steyn (Benetton Rugby), S Parisse (Stade Français, capt)
Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Stade Toulousain), C Traore (Benetton Rugby), T Pasquali (Benetton Rugby), D Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club), J Polledri (Gloucester Rugby), G Palazzani (Zebre Rugby Club), I McKinley (Benetton Rugby), T Castello (Zebre Rugby Club).