Italy head coach Jacques Brunel has named an experienced squad that he hopes will deliver a first-ever quarter-final place for the Azzurri at a Rugby World Cup.
Sergio Parisse captains a group of players who boast well more than 1,000 caps between them, at an average of 36 per player, and is split 17/14 between forwards and backs.
Parisse and fellow cap centurion and veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni join 92-cap centre Andrea Masi in competing at a fourth Rugby World Cup, while flanker Mauro Bergamasco, another player whose caps total runs into three figures, is set to go one better and match Brian Lima’s record feat of appearing in five tournaments.
Monday’s squad announcement represents the final act of a two-month process which involved 50 players selected for the preliminary squad, 40 of them assembling mid-June in Villabassa for the season’s first training camp.
"Our ambition is to advance to the Rugby World Cup knock-out stages, a goal Italy hasn’t reached in the past editions"
“Since my appointment as Italy head coach we have worked on finding the right balance for this team and the Rugby World Cup selection has been made with this in mind," said Brunel. "Our ambition is to advance to the Rugby World Cup knock-out stages, a goal Italy hasn’t reached in the past editions, and our decisions and our energies are driven with this final target in mind.
“We’re conscious it won’t be easy to progress through the pool phase, as France and Ireland are both above us in the World Rugby Rankings, but we must keep in mind we defeated both of them in the 2013 Six Nations. At the same time, we can’t underestimate Canada and Romania, two sound teams that will certainly do their best to achieve a positive result against a team above them in the ranking during the tournament."
Italy's 31-man RWC 2015 squad will travel to Edinburgh on Thursday to prepare for Saturday's return match against Scotland and will then move to Cardiff where they’ll face Wales on 5 September in their third and final warm-up fixture.
The Azzurri will gather again in Rome on 12 September and then fly out to London and to Rugby World Cup 2015 the following day.
Italy's Rugby World Cup 2015 squad:
Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Loenardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Manici, Valerio Bernabo, Josh Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (captain), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni,
Backs: Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Angelo Esposito, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti.
You can follow the Italy squad on Twitter
Tickets for Italy’s RWC 2015 matches are still available via the official Rugby World Cup ticketing site at www.rugbyworldcup.com/ticketing.