7 Nov 2014

Haimona to debut for Italy

7:24 am on 7 November 2014

The New Zealand-born first-five Kelly Haimona will make his debut for Italy in Sunday morning's rugby Test against Samoa in Ascoli, after being picked by coach Jacques Brunel.

Kelly Haimona.

Kelly Haimona. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Haimona, who plays at Italian club Zebre, has relegated Luciano Orquera onto the bench and will form a halves partnership with Edoardo Gori.

The former Whakarewarewa star and Bay of Plenty representative Haimona was included in Italy's 30-man squad for three home tests in November.

The Rotorua-born player was initially selected as a midfield back despite playing much of his career at first five-eighths, though he's been picked to start at pivot.

Haimona, 28, played for the Whakarewarewa club until 2011, before leaving to play club rugby in Italy.

He also had a brief stint with the Bay of Plenty Steamers in 2008 and 2009.

Haimona has represented three clubs in Italy during the past three years including Lyons, Zebre and Calvisano.

Brunel kept faith with just five of the players who featured in June's 15-0 defeat to Samoa in Apia -- hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, locks Quintin Geldenhuys and Josh Furno, winger Luke McLean and fullback Andrea Masi.

Italy team to face Samoa (15-1): Andrea Masi, Luke Mclean, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori, Sergio Parisse (capt), Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Joshua Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys, Dario Chistolini, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matias Aguero

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Robert Barbieri, Guglielmo Palazzani, Luciano Orquera, Giulio Toniolatti