Sergio Parisse has won his fitness battle for Sunday’s crucial World Cup clash with Ireland.
The talismanic captain has finally beaten the calf haematoma that kept him out of Italy’s opening two World Cup matches, against France and Canada.
The Azzurri must beat double Six Nations champions Ireland to keep their slim quarter-final hopes alive, in Sunday’s Pool D battle at London’s Olympic Stadium.
Italy lock Quintin Geldenhuys backed Stade Francais’ highly-prized number eight to “run the show” against Joe Schmidt’s Ireland this weekend.
“We need to him to exude all his usual influence against Ireland, in what will be an extremely tough match,” Geldenhuys said.
“He’s just always had a presence that marks him out from other players, his leadership really driving us on.
“We need him to run the show for us against Ireland, and we all know he’s fully capable.”
Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini has failed to recover from a thigh injury, so is replaced in the front-row by Andrea Manici.
Veteran and extrovert prop Martin Castrogiovanni is not involved either after struggling with an as-yet unconfirmed injury issue.
Ireland are fully versed in Parisse’s all-encompassing threat, Joe Schmidt’s men expecting a sizeable shift in the Italian challenge thanks to the 32-year-old’s mere presence.
“Parisse will be a massive boost for them but we’ll happily rise to the challenge,” said Ireland lock Iain Henderson.
“I’ve played against him two or three times already and I’ve loved playing against him before.
“We’ll relish the opportunity of playing against him again.
“He is a fantastic player there’s no doubt about it, one of the world’s best number eights.
“But there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to deal with him handily enough.”
Italy team to face Ireland: L McLean, L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia, G Venditti, T Allan, E Gori, M Aguero, A Manici, L Cittadini, Q Geldenhuys, J Furno, F Minto, S Favaro, S Parisse (capt). Replacements: D Giazzon, M Rizzo, D Chistolini, A Zanni, M Bergamasco, G Palazzani, C Canna, T Benvenuti.