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Rugby: Brunel revamps Italy for France clash

Parisse, Castrogiovanni set to equal Lo Cicero's caps record

07 February, 18:31
Rugby: Brunel revamps Italy for France clash (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, February 7 - Coach Jacques Brunel on Friday made five changes to his starting line-up for Italy's clash with France in Paris on Sunday, their second match of the 2014 Six Nations.

Two of the changes are in the backs, where Brunel has given a tad more experience to the young backline that acquitted itself well in last week's brave 23-15 defeat to reigning champions Wales in Cardiff.

Tommaso Iannone comes in on the right wing for Angelo Esposito, who made a terrible blunder in misjudging the bounce of a kick that allowed Wales' opening try at the start of his debut last week, but recovered to put in a good showing.

Gonzalo Garcia takes over from Alberto Sgarbi at inside centre and will play next to Michele Campagnaro, the 20-year-old who scored two tries and was man of the match against Wales in his third international appearance.

Frenchman Brunel is sticking with the halfback pairing of scrumhalf Edoardo Gori and flyhalf Tommaso Allan, who was tidy against Wales in only his fourth international.

Brunel has also tinkered with his hugely experienced pack.

Francesco Minto takes the field at blindside flanker in the place of Alessandro Zanni, who drops to the bench after breaking his nose against Wales.

Marco Bortolami is also among the reserves after taking a knock in Cardiff, having surrendered his place to Joshua Furno.

In the front row, Alberto De Marchi takes over from Michele Rizzo at loosehead prop.

"We made some changes to the starting line-up but the 23-man squad for the match is almost the same," Brunel, who was assistant France coach from 2007 to 2011 under Bernard Laporte, told a press conference.

"Iannone has taken Esposito's place because he's been showing me good things and Angelo gives me coverage at wing and fullback from the bench. The mistake in Cardiff has nothing to do with it.

"I think it's very important to create competition within the group and the choice of replacing Minto for Zanni, for example, is a move in this direction". Inspirational captain Sergio Parisse, one of the best number eights in the world, and tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni will both play for Italy for the 103rd time to equal the caps record of the retired Andrea Lo Cicero.

Italy travel to Paris as holders of the Garibaldi Trophy, after stunning France 23-18 in Rome last year.

They also beat France at home in 2011 and in Grenoble in 1997. France, who beat England in their Six Nations opener, have won the other 32 encounters between the nations.

"France are a dangerous team," Brunel said.

"They are the World Cup finalists, they had a tough 2013, but they started 2014 with a victory over England that will certainly have given them confidence.

"That confidence will be the first danger for us. We've shown that, when we play our best, we can come close to the top sides. Let's hope it's like that on Sunday". Last year the Azzurri equalled their best-ever Six Nations campaign, by winning two matches, against France and Ireland.

After playing France, Brunel's men then host Scotland in Rome on February 22, travel to Dublin to face Ireland on March 8 and wrap up the tournament against England at home on March 15.

Italy team to take on France: 15 Luke Mclean (Benetton Treviso, 53 caps), 14 Tommaso Iannone (Zebre, 7 caps), 13 Michele Campagnaro (Benetton Treviso, 3 caps), 12 Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre, 30 caps), 11 Leonardo Sarto (Zebre, 3 caps), 10 Tommaso Allan (Perpignan, 4 caps), 9 Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso, 29 caps); 8 Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais, 102 caps, captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre, 96 caps), 6 Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso, 8 caps), 5 Joshua Furno (Biarritz Olympique, 14 caps), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre, 42 caps), 3 Martin Castrogiovanni (Toulon, 102 caps), 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso, 60 caps), 1 Alberto De Marchi (Benetton Treviso, 13 caps).

Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon (Zebre, 16 caps), 17 Michele Rizzo (Benetton Treviso, 12 caps), 18 Lorenzo Cittadini (Benetton Treviso, 28 caps), 19 Marco Bortolami (Zebre, 100 caps), 20 Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso, 81 caps), 21 Tobias Botes (Benetton Treviso, 20 caps), 22 Luciano Orquera (Zebre, 37 caps), 23 Angelo Esposito (Benetton Treviso, 1 cap).