Under-20s Six Nations: Ireland v Italy
Kick-off: 2pm, Wednesday. Venue: Cardiff Arms Park. On TV: Live on RTÉ2.
The physical attrition rate in Ireland's 24-15 defeat to England was humongous and it is therefore no surprise that Ireland head coach Richie Murphy has made nine changes to the starting team for his side's fourth match in the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.
Centre Shane Jennings, openside flanker Oisín McCormack, captain and number eight Alex Kendellen and replacement loosehead prop Jack Boyle were all removed for head injury assessments (HIAs) during the match with only the latter pair passed fit for duty in Cardiff this afternoon.
The outstanding Kendellen will lead the team for the fourth time but switches to the number seven jersey to accommodate the promotion of fellow Munster man Daniel Okeke. He's not the only one to swap roles, Alexis Soroka moving from the secondrow to blindside flanker. The other survivors in the pack from the English game are tighthead prop Sam Illo and secondrow Harry Sheridan.
Murphy has retained just two of the run-on backline from the last day, scrumhalf Nathan Doak and fullback Jamie Osborne. Ulster trio Conor Rankin, Jude Postlethwaite and Ben Carson are given their first starts, so too Bristol Bears wing Chay Mullins. James Humphreys is fit again after sustaining a facial injury against Scotland.
Nottingham University prop Liam Bishop and Terenure College hooker Levi Vaughan will tog out in the matchday 26 for the first time.
Italy, who lost 25-8 to Wales in the opening match, should have beaten France but succumbed to a disappointing 13-11 defeat before thumping Scotland 43-3 last time out; there is only one change to that starting team with Luca Rizzoli coming in at prop. There are some standout players in the group with outside centre Tommaso Menoncello very highly regarded.
There are a couple of familiar names too in number eight Lorenzo Cannone and replacement scrumhalf Alessando Garbisi, younger brothers of senior internationals, Niccolo and Paolo respectively. This is a good Italy team whose performance graph has risen as the tournament progressed, who play with a sense of adventure and width as well as possessing more traditional virtues.
If Ireland do manage a win, it will arguably be better than those over Scotland and Wales, given both the number of changes and the quality of the opposition.
Ireland: J Osborne (Leinster); C Rankin (Ulster), J Postlethwaite (Ulster), B Carson (Ulster), C Mullins (Bristol Bears); J Humphreys (Ulster), N Doak (Ulster); G Saunderson (Ulster), E de Buitléar (Connacht), S Illo (Leinster); M Morrissey (Leinster), H Sheridan (Ulster); A Soroka (Leinster), A Kendellen (Munster, capt), D Okeke (Munster).
Replacements: R Loughnane (Leinster), J Boyle (Leinster), L Bishop (Nottingham University), F O'Donoghue (Munster), J Kelleher (Munster), C McKee (Ulster), C Forde (Connacht), J O'Connor (Leinster), R Crothers (Ulster), L Vaughan (Leinster), B Moxham (Ulster).
Italy: L Pani; F Vaccari, T Menoncello, F Drago, S Gesi; L Marin, M Albanese; L Rizzoli, T Di Bartolomeo, I Neculai; G Ferrari, N Piantella; L Andreani (capt), R Vintcent, L Cannone.
Replacements: M Baldelli, M Spagnolo, M Hasa, F Boschetti, G Cenedese, A Garbisi, M Ferrarin, F Schiabel, A Angelone, G Marucchini, M Brighetti.