A CARDIGAN scrum half will start for Italy in the country’s Rugby World Cup opener against Namibia this weekend.

Stephen Varney, who hails from Rhoshill near Cardigan, has been named in the line-up for game on Saturday.

The Welsh-speaker is the son of former Neath and Aberavon flanker Adrian Varney and won the Welsh Schools Under-16s Cup for Ysgol y Preseli in 2017. He came through the junior ranks at Crymych RFC before moving on to play professionally, where he currently plies his trade at Gloucester Rugby.

He chose to represent Italy, qualifying through his grandparents on his mother’s side and after playing for Italy U20s, he made his senior test debut in the autumn of 2020 as a replacement against Scotland.

Head coach Kieran Crowley said: “We’re prepared well for this match. There is energy in the team for the World Cup debut.

“The focus will be on our performance and the next match. We work step by step showing the best version of ourselves.”

Italy team to face Namibia on Saturday, September 9 (12midday kick-off, live on ITV): 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Ange Capuozzo, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Epalahame Faiva, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 David Sisi, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Paolo Odogwu, 23 Pierre Bruno