A CEREDIGION rugby player will be facing off against the All Blacks this weekend.

Scrum half Stephen Varney returns to the starting line up for Italy after sitting out the 38-17 win of Uruguay.

The 22-year-old from Rhoshill, near Cardigan, who plays for Gloucester, will be teaming up with Paolo Garbisi in the half-backs as they face a New Zealand side that has started their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign quite poorly, losing 27-13 against France and romping to a 71-3 win against Namibia, although the performance wasn’t up to the standard that the rugby world has come to expect from the three-time world cup winners.

Whilst Italy are two wins from two games – with the aforementioned Uruguay win coming after a convincing 52-8 opening win against Namibia.

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley said: "I've never seen a bad All Black team, but world rugby at the top level now is getting very, very close because everyone's exposed to the same coaching, everyone's exposed to the same strength and conditioning and nutrition.

"A few years ago the All Blacks were pretty dominant. They were probably a little bit ahead of other countries in the way they approached the game, but now you see everyone has caught up."

Italy team to face New Zealand on Friday, September 29 (8pm kick off, BST, live on ITV): 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Ange Capuozzo, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Montanna Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 2 Marco Riccioni, 4 Dino Lamb, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Michele Lamaro, 8 Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Manuel Zuliani 21 Toa Halafihi, 22 Martin Page-Relo, 23 Paolo Odogwu.