Italy rugby captain Sergio Parisse has been rested for next month’s tour of Japan, coach Conor O’Shea confirmed on Wednesday.
Irishman O’Shea named a 31-man squad with Treviso prop Cherif Traore getting a first call-up and centres Michele Campagnaro and Luca Morisi returning.
Parisse, 34, earned the unwanted record of a 100th Test defeat in Italy’s last-gasp 29-27 Six Nations loss to Scotland in March which gave the Azzurri a third consecutive wooden spoon.
“This tour is a great opportunity for the team to continue to progress with a view to the World Cup next year in Japan,” said O’Shea. “But we also want to put the necessary pressure within the group to turn our good performances into results.”
Italy will challenge the Brave Blossoms, coached by New Zealander Jamie Joseph, on Saturday, June 9 in Oita and Saturday, June 16 in Kobe.
They will also play a warm-up match against Yamaha Jubilo, a Japanese first division club, on June 2 in Nagano.
The two nations have played six times with Italy winning on five occasions and Japan once — their most recent meeting in Tokyo on June 21, 2014.
The Tests will take place one year out from Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup from September 20 to November 2, 2019.
Forwards: Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Cherif Traore, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Oliviero Fabiani, George Biagi, Marco Fuser, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, Alessandro Zanni, Giovanni Licata, Jake Polledri, Sebastiani Negri, Abraham Steyn.
Backs: Marcello Violi, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tomasso Allan, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini, Tomasso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Giulio Bisegni, Tomasso Castello, Jayden Hayward, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Richard Barrett).