Six Nations 2015: Italy make four changes for Wales
Veterans Martin Castrogiovanni and Mauro Bergamasco return as Wales look for big win over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico
Jacques Brunel has made four changes for Italy’s RBS 6 Nations match against Wales in Rome on Saturday.
It is a final outing in the championship for the Frenchman, who is set to step down as Azzurri head coach after the Rugby World Cup later this year.
I expect a tough game on Saturday, but I expect that we will show a different side to ourselves than we showed at the Stadio Olimpico last Sunday.
Veteran tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni returns to the starting XV at the expense of Dario Chistolini, after missing the last two matches with stitches to his nose.
He is joined in the front row by Michele Rizzo, who replaces Matias Agüero.
Captain and talisman Sergio Parisse is ruled out after going off in their defeat to France last time out with a foot problem, so Maura Bergamasco comes into the back row with Samuela Vunisa moving from openside to number eight, while hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini leads his country for the eighth time.
“The Parisse situation had to be evaluated,” Brunel said.
“He has improved a lot over the past few days, but we cannot risk him and it is right that he does not play.”
In the backline, Zebre outside-half Kelly Haimona returns in place of Tommaso Allan, who drops out of the 23.
An unlikely win for Italy would ensure they avoid finishing bottom of the championship, but they can still have a say in the outcome of the championship with Wales needing a huge win to keep their ambitions alive ahead of the other two matches later on “Super Saturday”.
“Wales will play like five or six years ago – trying to impose their own rhythm, intensity, power and physicality,” Brunel added.
“They are a team that have confidence in their game and we expect a Welsh XV that will have the ability to put pressure on us with ball in hand and with their kicking.
“I expect a tough game on Saturday, but I expect that we will show a different side to ourselves than we showed at the Stadio Olimpico last Sunday.”
Italy: Luke McLean (Sale Sharks); Leonardo Sarto (Zebre Rugby), Luca Morisi (Benetton Treviso), Andrea Masi (Wasps), Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre Rugby); Kelly Haimona (Zebre Rugby), Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso); Michele Rizzo (Leicester Tigers), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Leicester Tigers, captain), Martin Castrogiovanni (Toulon), George Biagi (Zebre Rugby), Joshua Furno (Newcastle Falcons), Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre Rugby), Samuela Vunisa (Zebre Rugby).
Replacements: Andrea Manici (Zebre Rugby), Alberto De Marchi (Sale Sharks), Dario Chistolini (Zebre Rugby), Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre Rugby), Roberto Barbieri (Leicester Tigers); Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby), Luciano Orquera (Zebre Rugby), Enrico Bacchin (Benetton Treviso).
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZRU)