Ghiraldini is set to return from injury with the experienced hooker
included on Sunday in Italy's largely youthful squad which features 23
tournament debutants for next month's Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Ghiraldini, who has 104 caps, ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments
during the Six Nations last March and had been considered a doubt to
play in his fourth World Cup.
But the 34-year-old Italy vice-captain has been chosen by coach Conor
O'Shea in a squad largely made up of players who have never competed in
the sport's showpiece event.
"Leo is a player with great experience. He worked hard and constantly
throughout the summer. We are happy for him, he is an added value both
on and off the field," said O'Shea.
"Leo, together with (Sergio) Parisse and (Alessandro) Zanni, are
playing their last matches in the Italy jersey of their extraordinary
"We want to make a dream come true and we have the cards to be able to succeed."
O'Shea whittled down his original 44-man provisional outfit to 31, a
day after Italy's 85-15 victory over Russia in their second warm-up in
San Benedetto del Tronto.
Captain Parisse returned against Russia after missing their defeat by
Ireland, and will play in his fifth World Cup, becoming just the third
player to do so after compatriot Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan Brian Lima.
The 35-year-old, who earned his 139th international cap against
Russia, joins Australian George Gregan as the third-most capped
international, behind New Zealand's Richie McCaw (148) and Ireland's
Brian O'Driscoll (141).
Second-rower Zanni (113 caps) will also play in his fourth World Cup,
while Benetton flyhalf Tommaso Benvenuti (57) will line out in his
But among the squad which includes 15 players from Italian side
Benetton, and 10 from Zebre, will be 23 who have not played in a World
They include Wasps
fullback Matteo Minozzi, 23, who scored a hat-trick of tries against
Russia, while Gloucester scrum-half Callum Braley and Benetton prop
Marco Riccioni are the most inexperienced members of the group with two
Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri and former England Under-20 back-row David Sisi also made the cut.
"Choosing the 31 players for the Rugby World Cup and talking to those
who will not continue the adventure with us was probably the hardest
thing I have done," said O'Shea.
"It is a dream for everyone to represent Italy at the World Cup. It's hard because everyone deserved to be here."
Italy play France on August 30 and England the following Friday in
pre-tournament warm-ups, before facing defending champions New Zealand,
South Africa, Namibia and Canada in Pool B.
"At the World Cup we must absolutely win against Namibia and Canada
and then focus on the other two big challenges we have," added Irishman
"I believe that with South Africa, with this group, an opportunity can be created."
Italy squad for 2019 Rugby World Cup:
Simone Ferrari (Benetton), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre), Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton), Nicola Quaglio (Benetton), Marco Riccioni (Benetton), Federico Zani (Benetton), Luca Bigi (Zebre), Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre), Leonardo Ghiraldini (without team), Dean Budd (Benetton), Federico Ruzza (Benetton), David Sisi (Zebre), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton), Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Sebastian Negri (Benetton), Sergio Parisse (Toulon - capt), Jake Polledri (Gloucester), Abraham Steyn (Benetton)
Callum Braley (Gloucester), Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre), Tito Tebaldi (Benetton), Tommaso Allan (Benetton), Carlo Canna (Zebre), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton), Michele Campagnaro (Harlequins), Luca Morisi (Benetton), Mattia Bellini (Zebre), Giulio Bisegni (Zebre), Jayden Hayward (Benetton), Matteo Minozzi (Wasps), Edoardo Padovani (Zebre)