Portugal Colonial - New Zealand-born Halafihi to make Italy debut in France Six Nations opener

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New Zealand-born Halafihi to make Italy debut in France Six Nations opener
New Zealand-born Halafihi to make Italy debut in France Six Nations opener

New Zealand-born Halafihi to make Italy debut in France Six Nations opener

Former Hurricanes back-rower Toa Halafihi will make his Italy debut in this weekend's Six Nations trip to France, the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) said on Friday.

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Halafihi, 28, qualifies for the Azzurri on residency grounds after joining Treviso in 2018.

The No. 8, originally from Gisborne on New Zealand's north island, benefits from injuries to the likes of Jake Polledri and Johan Meyer as well as Sergio Parisse's potential return later in the tournament.

His club team-mate and winger Tommaso Menoncello is another uncapped player named in Kieran Crowley's starting lineup for Saturday's fixture.

Two further Treviso squad members in 21-year-old flanker Manuel Zuliani and teenage fly-half Leonardo Marin are set to win their first caps from the bench.

"The work done in these weeks of preparation, towards the start of the Six Nations, has been intense and of quality," Crowley said in a FIR statement.

"There is a lot of energy in the group and awareness of taking the field in one of the most important tournaments in the world of rugby and sport," he added.

Earlier on Friday, France head coach Fabien Galthie told AFP he had tested positive for Covid-19 and team manager Raphael Ibanez will take hands on charge of the team for the game in Paris.

Italy team (15-1)

Edoardo Padovani; Tommaso Menoncello, Juan Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Toa Halafihi, Michele Lamaro (capt), Sebastian Negri; Federico Ruzza, Niccolo Cannone; Tiziano Pasquali, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: Epalahame Faiva, Ivan Nemer, Giosue Zilocchi, Marco Fuser, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Callum Braley, Leonardo Marin

M.Gameiro--PC