ROME, Feb 1 (Reuters) - South Africa-born Tobias Botes will start at scrumhalf as part of three changes for Italy's Six Nations championship opener against France on Sunday.
Compared to the defeat by Australia in November in their last match, Botes comes in for Edoardo Gori who is on the bench while Luke McLean replaces the injured Mirco Bergamasco on the wing.
Flanker Simone Favaro is the final change, taking the place of Robert Barbieri, as he looks forward to his first start at the 80,000-seat Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Botes, who has eight caps, will pair up with flyhalf Luciano Orquera after coach Jacques Brunel - a Frenchman - resisted the temptation to bring in Kristopher Burton with place kicker Bergamasco out.
Orquera has long struggled to keep his place in Azzurri colours with lengthy spells out of the team but the lack of strength in depth among Italy's ranks means he has another chance to impress and make his 30th appearance.
Talisman Martin Castrogiovanni and captain Sergio Parisse are fully fit to start as Italy look to start their campaign with a bang and shock the French like they did at home in 2011.
15-Andrea Masi, 14-Giovanbattista Venditti, 13-Tommaso Benvenuti, 12-Alberto Sgarbi, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Luciano Orquera, 9-Tobias Botes, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Simone Favaro, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 5-Francesco Minto, 4-Quintin Geldenhuys, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1-Andrea Lo Cicero
Replacements: 16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Alberto De Marchi, 18-Lorenzo Cittadini, 19-Antonio Pavanello, 20-Paul Derbyshire, 21-Edoardo Gori, 22-Kristopher Burton, 23-Gonzalo Canale (Writing by Mark Meadows, editing by Pritha Sarkar)