Santa Fe - Irish coach Conor O'Shea begins
his mission to create "the best Italy team ever" with a one-off Test
against Argentina in Santa Fe on Saturday.
But the 45-year-old successor to Frenchman
Jacques Brunel must face the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finalists without
several key players.
Captain Sergio Parisse, Alessandro Zanni
and Francesco Minto, the back row when the Azzurri crumbled 67-14 to Wales last
March, are rested.
Only four starters in Cardiff - wings
Leonardo Sarto and David Odiete, prop Andrea Lovotti and lock Quintin
Geldenhuys - begin against the Pumas.
Star 117-cap tight head prop Martin
Castrogiovanni has been omitted for one-off Tests in Argentina, the United
States and Canada.
He was banned by French club Racing 92 for
partying in Las Vegas instead of attending a European Champions Cup semi-final
Although former Ireland fullback O'Shea has
named only one new cap, centre Tommaso Boni, seven starters have 10 or less
O'Shea has a bold plan to transform Italy
from perennial Six Nations Championship whipping boys into formidable opponents
at the highest level.
"I want this to be the best Italian
team ever. I played against a fantastic Italian team in the 1990s and I think
we can become even better than that team."
Fitness is a key issue for the man capped
35 times at fullback by Ireland, who joined Italy after coaching roles with
London Irish and Harlequins.
"Italy always start fast but as the
match progresses they get slower and slower. We have to change that and
identify the players who can help us.
"I love my teams to play with the ball
in hand, but you cannot do that, for example, if you cannot make your
tackles," said O'Shea.
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade starts with
only four of the team beaten by South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup
third-place play-off in London.
Winger Santiago Cordero, centre Matias
Moroni, flyhalf and leading 2015 World Cup points scorer Nicolas Sanchez and
lock Matias Alemanno survive.
The drastic overhaul is due to suspensions
and a decision to pick only home-based players, ruling out Toulon back-rower
Juan Fernandez Lobbe.
Super Rugby debutants Jaguares - the
national team in disguise - have been plagued by ill-discipline during a dismal
run of 10 losses in 12 matches.
Leonardo Senatore received a 10-week ban
for biting and shoulder charges by fellow forwards Ramiro Herrera and Tomas
Lavanini triggered suspensions.
After being well beaten by Italy when they
first met, Argentina have gained the upper hand, winning 14 of the 20 Tests
between the countries.
The Pumas last lost to the Azzurri in 2008,
winning five Tests in a row since, including three on Italian soil.