Gert Peens will become the latest southern hemisphere-born player to play in the Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship when he makes his Italian debut against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 2 March (kick-off 2.00pm).
The South African-born Peens is promoted to the Azzurri's national team after two outings with the A side this season. Based in Piacenza, Peens follows Kiwi-born Matt Phillips into the Italian side after qualifying on the 36 months residency rule.
Peens is one of three changes behind the scrum from the side beaten in Rome by Scotland two weeks ago. He takes over from the injured Paulo Vaccari at full back, while Rotherham's Ramiro Pez deputises for the injured Diego Dominguez at outside half.
The other change is on the wing where Nicola Mazzucato comes in for Dennis Dallan, who dropped out with injury this week.
But under fire coach Brad Johnstone has conducted major surgery on his pack, making changes in every row.
OUT go Federico Pucciarello from the front row, Stephane Dellape from the second row and Matt Phillips from the back row.
IN come Salvatore Perugini at tight head prop, Mark Giacheri at lock and Aaron Persico at blindside flanker.
And Johnstone has also switched his most expereinced forward, Carlo Checchinato, from the second row to No 8 to replace Phillips and moved back row man Marco Bortolami from the back row to lock to allow New Zealand-born Aaron Persico to come into the side on the blindside.
Italy have not won a Lloyds TSB Six Nations match since their opening day victory over the then defending Five Nations Champions Scotland two years ago.
They have met Wales eight times before and are still awaiting their first win. And after 11 successive championship defeats, Johnstone will be hoping his side can improve on their performances to date in which they lost 33-12 to France and 29-12 to Scotland.
ITALY (v Wales)
Gert Peens (Piacenza); Roberto Pedrazzi (Viadana), Mirco Bergamasco (Padova), Cristian Stoica (Castres), Nicola Mazzucato (Benetton Treviso); Ramiro Pez (Rotherham), Alessandro Troncon (Monteferrand); Giampiero De Carli (Calvisano), Alessandro Moscardi (Benetton Treviso, captain), Salvatore Perugini (L'Aquila), Mark Giacheri (Sale Sharks), Marco Bortolami (Padova), Aaron Persico (Viadana), Mauro Bergamasco (Benetton Treviso), Carlo Checchinato (Benetton Treviso).
Replacements: Federico Pucciarello (Gloucester), Andrea Lo Cicero (Toulouse), Andrea Benatti (Viadana), Matthew Phillips (Viadana), Matteo Mazzantini (Benetton Treviso), Francesco Mazzariol (Benetton Treviso), Giovanni Raineri (Roma)
As the countdown continues for RWC2015, Tournament Chief Executive Debbie Jevans visited the Millennium Stadium to discuss preparations for the eight matches and reveal the positive news that 100,000 tickets for games at the home of Welsh rugby have sold in the last seven days.
Jason Harries is targeting a first win on the World Series circuit this season with Wales. The series returns to action this weekend in Dubai where Harries is part of a team hoping to build from its efforts in round one in October.
Wales skipper Jevon Groves says his side have addressed a few points from Gold Coast and aim to 'hit the ground running' in the next two rounds of the World Series, kicking off with this weekend in Dubai before heading off to South Africa next week.
Wales Sevens manager Steff Thomas is hopeful his side can build from a quarter-final spot in the opening round of the World Series in Australia when his side take part in the forthcoming double header in Dubai and South Africa.