This brings further discredit on the qualification rules which, by their virtual non-existence, do nothing to prevent international players from changing countries at will. Gardner, 28, who is remembered by one of the Welsh team, Mike Hall, for the shoeing he gave him when the Lions played Queensland in 1989, plays in Italy for the same club as Naas Botha.
Botha, though, remains a South African in practice as well as fact and is leading the Springboks on their tour of France and England. By taking on his new identity, Gardner has done what the Wallaby wing David Campese, who at least is of Italian parentage, has sometimes threatened.
Gardner is joined in the team for tonight and next week by a second Australian-born player, Mark Giancheri from Sydney, whose Italian credentials sound more conclusive. Ramiro Cassina, one of the wave of Argentinians playing in Italy, is another imported newcomer.
The Italian federation said yesterday that the team to play Romania would be retained against Wales. There is no place for Ivan Francescato, the scrum-half who excelled during last year's World Cup but is out of favour because of a dispute over a change of clubs.
ITALY (v Wales, Cardiff, 7 October): L Troinai (L'Aquila); E Venturi (Rovigo), S Zorzi (Treviso), S Barba, Marcello Cuttitta; D Dominguez (Milan), U Casellato (Treviso); Massimo Cuttitta (Milan), G Pivetta (San Dona, capt), F Properzi Curti (Milan), C Checchinato (Rovigo), M Giarcheri (Treviso), R Cassina (Casale), J Gardner (Rovigo), A Bottarchiari (L'Aquila).
SOUTH AFRICA (v French Espoirs, Bordeaux, Saturday): H Reece-Edwards (Natal); D Oosthuizen (N Transvaal), F Knoetze (W Province), P Muller (Natal), P Hendricks (Transvaal); N Botha (N Transvaal, capt), R Du Preez (Natal); H Rodgers (Transvaal), A Truscott (N Transvaal), K Andrews (W Province), A Geldenhuys (E Province), D Hattingh (N Transvaal), I MacDonald (Transvaal), T Strauss (W Province), P Pretorius (N Transvaal).