HOUSTON (AP) -The United States will go after its first win over Italy in a one-off rugby test on Saturday with the same side which beat Georgia for the Eagles' first home win in two years.
Only the wingers, James Paterson and Luke Hume, swapped positions from the side which defeated Georgia 36-20 in Colorado.
"The guys saw the hard work being translated into success against Georgia,'' coach Mike Tolkin said. "We're excited to build on it, and carry on that enthusiasm that is at the heart of it knowing we have to step it up against Italy.''
Italy, after making seven changes and beating Canada 25-16 in Toronto last Friday, reverted mainly back to the side which opened its three-test tour of the Americas by losing to Argentina 37-22.
That means the return in the forwards of prop Alberto De Marchi, who debuted against the Pumas and hurt his shoulder, 53-cap hooker Carlo Festuccia, and flanker Mauro Bergamasco, the most capped player in the side with 91.
The backline will be one of the youngest Italy's ever fielded, with an average age of 22 and a half.
Halves Edoardo Gori and Riccardo Bocchino start for the first time since the World Cup last year. Luca Morisi makes his first start after a debut as a substitute against England in February, and he's paired in the centers with Roberto Quartaroli, who will appear for a fifth time for the Azzurri. Fullback Luke McLean, the senior in the backline who turns 25 next week, was over a hamstring injury which kept him out of the first two tests on tour.
Italy has won all three previous tests against the Eagles, including at the World Cups in 1991 and 2011, but this will be their first test on U.S. soil.
"We dominated possession against Argentina and Canada and tried to impose our game but turned over too much ball and lost continuity,'' coach Jacques Brunel said. "We have to improve that.
"We also can't play at the Americans' level, but aim to raise our level. The United States have intriguing potential, they are a team that has a lot of confidence in their own physicality. They retain the ball well, and their back row and centers are very solid. I expect a tough match, like the one against Canada.''
United States: Chris Wyles, James Paterson, Paul Emerick, Andrew Suniula, Luke Hume, Roland Suniula, Mike Petri, Todd Clever (captain), Scott Lavalla, Taylor Mokate, Brian Doyle, Louis Stanfill, Eric Fry, Chris Biller, Shawn Pittman. Reserves: Derek Asbun, Mike MacDonald, Andre Liufau, Andrew Durutalo, Mose Timoteo, Will Holder, Colin Hawley.
Italy: Luke McLean, Giovanbattista Venditti, Roberto Quartaroli, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Riccardo Bocchino, Edoardo Gori, Robert Barbieri, Mauro Bergamasco, Alessandro Zanni, Joshua Furno, Antonio Pavanello, Martin Castrogiovanni (captain), Carlo Festuccia, Alberto De Marchi. Reserves: Davide Giazzon, Michele Rizzo, Simone Favaro, Tommaso D'Apice, Tito Tebaldi, Kris Burton, Alberto Sgarbi.
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