ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Welsh-born scrum-half Stephen Varney has been chosen to start Saturday's Six Nations home clash with title-chasing Wales as coach Franco Smith named his team on Thursday.
Smith has gone for continuity in his Six Nations selections so far but makes five changes for the visit of Wales, with Gloucester's Varney fit despite getting injured in the warm-up and missing the loss to Ireland in Italy's last match.
There are fresh faces in the pack, two of those in the front row, with Danilo Fischetti and Giosue Zilocchi forming an all-new prop pairing either side of captain Luca Bigi.
Niccolo Cannone replaces Marco Lazzaroni at lock, while winger Mattia Bellini comes in for Luca Sperandio.
Italy have lost 30 Six Nations matches in a row stretching back to a win over Scotland in 2015 and are on course to pick up a sixth successive wooden spoon in this year's competition.
Smith is fully aware of the task his team face on Saturday, with Wales having won three from three so far.
"We are ready to continue our journey facing a team that aims to win the tournament," Smith said.
"We are meeting our goal to improve our performances, to become more and more competitive match after match. Every week together, staff and players, we work hard to win."
Italy team to face Wales:
15. Jacopo Trulla (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 6 caps)
14. Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 29 caps)
13. Juan Ignacio Brex (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)
12. Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 50 caps)
11. Montanna Ioane (Benetton Rugby, 4 caps)
10. Paolo Garbisi (Benetton Rugby, 8 caps)
9. Stephen Varney (Gloucester Rugby, 5 caps)
8. Michele Lamaro (Benetton Rugby, 5 caps)
7. Johan Meyer (Zebre Rugby Club, 12 caps)
6. Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 31 caps)
5. David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 14 caps)
4. Niccolo Cannone (Benetton Rugby, 11 caps)
3. Giosue Zilocchi (Zebre Rugby Club, 13 caps)
2. Luca Bigi (Zebre Rugby Club, 35 caps) (C)
1. Danilo Fischetti (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps)
16. Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby Club, 10 caps)
17. Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 45 caps)
18. Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 13 caps)
19. Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton Rugby, 14 caps)
20. Maxime Mbanda (Zebre Rugby Club, 27 caps)
21. Marcello Violi (Zebre Rugby Club, 19 caps)
22. Federico Mori (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 7 caps)
23. Edoardo Padovani (Benetton Rugby, 26 caps)
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)