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Rugby: Parisse back to lead Italy in England finale

Azzurri need victory to get something from poor campaign

13 March, 18:22
Rugby: Parisse back to lead Italy in England finale (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 13 - Captain Sergio Parisse will return to Italy's starting line-up for their final Six Nations match against England at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, coach Jacques Brunel announced Thursday. The Azzurri need a first-ever victory over former world champions England to get something out of what has been a disappointing campaign.

Brunel's men have lost all four of their matches so far and were thumped 46-7 by Ireland in Dublin last weekend. Parisse, one of the world's best number eights, was rested against the Irish as a precautionary measure because of a calf strain.

Parisse returns at the back of the scrum, with Robert Barbieri shifting across to openside flanker and Paul Derbyshire dropping to the bench.

His return is one of three changes Brunel has made to his team.

The other changes are in the front row.

Lorenzo Cittadini replaces the injured Martin Castrogiovanni at tighthead prop, while Matias Aguero takes over from Alberto De Marchi at loosehead. "Out great weakness in Dublin was linked to possession," Frenchman Brunel told a press conference.

"We gave an incredible performance in defence, with unprecedented statistics (for tackles). Now our problem is to regain balance in terms of winning the ball in the same way as we have for the last two years". England have a chance of winning the championship if they beat Italy on Saturday, as they have six points, the same as France and Ireland.

However, they will need to beat Italy by more than 50 points if Ireland win their match in Paris, as the Irish have a huge advantage in terms of points difference.

England, who have not changed the side that beat Wales 29-18 last time out, are the only Six Nations side Italy have never beaten.

But the Azzurri have pushed them close in Rome on several occasions, especially two years ago when they were unlucky to go down 19-15.

At the start of the tournament Brunel said he was targeting the England match and their other home game this year against Scotland, which they ended up losing 21-20 last month.

"We've shown that we have the chance to play on the same level in the last few matches against England," added Brunel.

"We'll see on Saturday whether we play like we have done over the last two years, or like we have done over the last two weeks.

"England are more physical than Ireland. You know you've played against them the day after. "They played with a superior level of intensity throughout this tournament.

"Our problem this week was to not lose faith in our way of playing and understand the reason for the Ireland defeat. "We've analysed the mistakes and we have faith in our potential". Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi; 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.

Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 George Fabio Biagi, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Andrea Masi.

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