Rome - Alessandro Zanni is in line to earn his 100th cap for Italy and Jake
Polledri received his first call as coach Conor O'Shea named his 34-man
Six Nations training squad on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old Zanni last
played for Italy in the 2016 tournament but injuries have since
prevented the Benetton flanker from adding to his 99 caps.
been called up by O'Shea along with Gloucester flanker Polledri, with
Leonardo Sarto and Tommaso Allan also returning after being sidelined
for the November Tests.
"The exciting aspect in this group is the
number of options we are developing and the choices we now have
available," said Irishman O'Shea.
"We must continue to build depth
and we are aware of having to improve, but we have made important
progress compared to a year ago.
"I am aware that we will be
judged on the results but we all know the level of play we will face and
the challenges that await us in every game, starting by playing the
second and third best teams in the world rankings in the space of six
days in the first two rounds."
Italy - who took the wooden spoon
for a second straight time last year - open against defending champions
England on February 4 in the Stadio Olimpico and then go to Ireland for
the second round on February 10.
The 34-man squad will travel to
Rome for a training camp, where they will be joined by young Benneton
props Marco Riccioni and Cherif Traore, who will train with the squad.
A final 31-man squad will be named after that training camp from January 21 to 24.
took over in March 2016 and his side shocked former world champions
South Africa in November that year, beating the Springboks 20-18 in
But the former Ireland international has had mixed
results with Italy, winning just four of 17 matches, including November
Tests against Argentina and South Africa.
Meanwhile, former New
Zealand legend Wayne Smith confirmed he will join Italy's coaching setup
later this year despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
60-year-old believes the surgery was a success and is already targeting
a new role working with Italy in the build-up to next year's World Cup
"I'll also be doing two to three weeks with the Italian national team coaches over the year," said Smith.
attend a couple of camps to have a mentoring-type role with Conor
O'Shea and Mike Catt. I have a real passion for Italy, its people and
their rugby, so my wife Trish and I are looking forward to getting back
there now and again."
Forwards (19): Simone Ferrari, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Quaglio (Benetton), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre); Luca Bigi (Benetton), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse/FRA), Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre); George Biagi (Zebre), Dean Budd, Marco Fuser, Federico Ruzza, Alessandro Zanni (all Benetton); Renato Giammarioli, Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Giovanni Licata (Fiamme Oro), Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn (all Benetton), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais), Jake Polledri (Gloucester)
Backs (15): Edoardo Gori, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Ian McKinley (Benetton), Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi (Zebre); Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani (Zebre); Tommaso Benvenuti, Jayden Hayward (Benetton); Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow/SCO)
Additional players: Marco Riccioni (Benetton) - prop: Cherif Traore (Benetton) - prop