Italy skipper and talisman Manuela Furlan returns to the international fray for the first time in 18 months as part of Andrea Di Giandomenico’s starting XV to take on Ireland when the 2020 Women’s Six Nations resumes on Saturday.
Full-back Furlan, who has won 73 caps for the Azzurre, was sidelined by a torn labrum in her left shoulder but has now recovered to lead out her country once more.
Italy were only able to complete two games in the Championship back in February before it was brought to a halt by the global pandemic, beating Wales 19-15 in Round 1 before going down 45-10 to France.
Aside from Furlan slotting into the No.15 jersey, there are five other changes to the side that started the defeat to Les Bleues – as Veronica Madia and Aura Muzzo come into the side at fly-half and on the wing respectively.
An all-new second row of Sara Tounesi and Giordana Duca get the nod, while Francesca Sgorbini starts at blindside flanker in place of Ilaria Arrighetti.
📺 La partita, valida per il recupero del @Womens6Nations 2020, sarà trasmessa in diretta da @Eurosport_IT player sabato alle 19.30 #Insieme #NoiCiSiamo#IREvITA #rugbypassioneitaliana pic.twitter.com/GW7mKTuvh4
— Italrugby (@Federugby) October 22, 2020
The bench includes scrum-half Sara Barattin’s 93 caps of experience, while at the other end of the spectrum 21-year-old prop Erika Skofca – a former competitive skier at age-group level – could make her Italy debut as a replacement.
And after so long away from the rugby field, Furlan is excited to get back into the thick of the action at Energia Park on Saturday.
“After a year and a half [out], I really missed training with the girls,” said Furlan. “The truth is that just when you find yourself back with them you realise how much you have missed them.
“I found the group united and the enthusiasm is sky high. We can’t wait to take the field, especially I can’t wait to go back to helping my teammates out on the pitch.”
Italy team to face Ireland in the Women’s Six Nations, Saturday October 24th, 6.30pm
15. Manuela FURLAN (Arredissima Villorba, 73 caps) – CAPTAIN
14. Vittoria OSTUNI MINUZZI (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 2 caps)
13. Michela SILLARI (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 55 caps)
12. Beatrice RIGONI (Valsugana Padova, 41 caps)
11. Aura MUZZO (Arredissima Villorba, 12 caps)
10. Veronica MADIA (Rugby Colorno, 17 caps)
9. Sofia STEFAN (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 54 caps)
1. Silvia TURANI (FC Grenoble, 14 caps)
2. Melissa BETTONI (Stade Rennais, 56 caps)
3. Lucia GAI (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 68 caps)
4. Sara TOUNESI (ASM Romagnat, 14 caps)
5. Giordana DUCA (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 16 caps)
6. Francesca SGORBINI (ASM Romagnat, 3 caps)
7. Giada FRANCO (HBS Colorno, 15 caps)
8. Elisa GIORDANO (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 41 caps)
16. Giulia CERATO (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 3 caps)
17. Erika SKOFCA (Valsugana Rugby Padova, debutant)
18. Michela MERLO (Kawasaki Rugby Calvisano, 6 caps)
19. Valeria FEDRIGHI (Stade Toulousain, 20 caps)
20. Francesca SBERNA (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, 4 caps)
21. Sara BARATTIN (Arredissima Villorba, 93 caps)
22. Beatrice CAPOMAGGI (Unione Rugby Capitolina, 3 caps)
23. Benedetta MANCINI (Unione Rugby Capitolina, 2 caps)