…Italy Make Three Changes…’Shoulder To Shoulder’ In Knin…Under-20s Get TV Treatment…Say What?…Numbers Game…
ITALY MAKE THREE CHANGES: Italian coach Pierre Berbizier has made three changes to his side for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland (Stadio Flaminio, kick-off 1.30pm).
With centre Gonzalo Canale (thigh) and flanker Mauro Bergamasco (suspended) already out, the Azzurri have been hit with another blow as experienced prop Andrea Lo Cicero has been ruled out of the game due to a fever.
The players to come in are Ezio Galon in midfield, Salvatore Perugini at loosehead prop and Maurizio Zaffiri has been drafted in to take Bergamasco’s place at openside flanker.
Ramiro Pez retains the number 10 jersey, partnering the ever-green Alessandro Troncon at half-back.
ITALY: Roland De Marigny (Calvisano); Kaine Robertson (Viadana), Ezio Galon (Parma), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Matteo Pratichetti (Calvisano); Ramiro Pez (Bayonne), Alessandro Troncon (Clermont Auvergne); Salvatore Perugini (Toulouse), Carlo Festuccia (Parma), Carlos Nieto (Gloucester), Santiago Dellape (Biarritz), Marco Bortolami (Gloucester) (capt), Alessandro Zanni (Calvisano), Maurizio Zaffiri (Calvisano), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Calvisano), Fabio Staibano (Parma), Valerio Bernabo (Calvisano), Josh Sole (Viadana), Paul Griffen (Calvisano), Andrea Scanavacca (Calvisano), Matteo Barbini (Treviso).
‘SHOULDER TO SHOULDER’ IN KNIN: A group of Irish players, who play at various levels for clubs in Dublin and Limerick, will venture to Knin this weekend to help the Croatian city mark their second ever St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The Irish selection will play the Croatian national team, who are ranked 39th in the world, as Knin hosts an international rugby match for the first time, alongside their official St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
The day will begin at 8.30am with an Irish breakfast at the Irish team hotel in Knin, followed by the presentation of shamrock to the City Mayoress and her deputies.
The match between Croatia and the Irish Barbarians kicks off at the Gradski Stadion at 12pm, with the Croats using it as preparation for their forthcoming European games against Latvia and Andorra.
The Ireland-Italy Six Nations game will be viewed by all and sundry on a big screen at the new Restoran Dinara in Knin afterwards. Match day tickets are a minimal 10kns with a combined ticket for dinner and game only 100kns.
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UNDER-20S GET TV TREATMENT: For fans and ex-pats who will be in Italy tomorrow, it should be noted that the Ireland Under-20s’ game against Italy in Benevento (kick-off 2.30pm local time) will be carried live on the SportItalia channel.
An Irish win would see Eric Elwood’s youngsters clinch an unprecedented championship and Grand Slam double at the new age grade.
The Italians, who are fielding an U-21 team in this competition, will be no pushovers however, having seen off Scotland and Wales in recent weeks.
ITALY U-21: Giulio Rubini (Overmach Cariparma); Michele Sepe (AlmavivA UR Capitolina), Alberto Sgarbi (Benetton Treviso), Davide Duca (Consiag I Cavalieri Prato), Gilberto Pavan (Overmach Cariparma); Paolo Buso (Cammi Calvisano), Fabio Semenzato (Benetton Treviso); Plinio Sciamanna (Arix Viadana), Davide Giazzon (Marchiol San Marco), Alberto De Marchi (Overmach Cariparma), Alberto Saccardo (Carrera Petrarca Padova), Luca Beccaris (Cammi Calvisano), Natale Duca (Arix Viadana), Filippo Cristiano (Cammi Calvisano), Paul Derbyshire (Rolly Gran Parma) (capt).
Replacements: Enrico Ceccato II (Benetton Treviso), Nicola Gatto (Carrera Petrarca Padova), Fabio Flammini (Mantovani Pol. Lazio 1927), Francesco Minto (Overmach Cariparma), Tito Tebaldi (Rolly Gran Parma), Enrico Ceccato I (Marchiol San Marco), Riccardo Pavan (Overmach Cariparma).
“I don’t know if I can be there for Italy-Ireland, but I promise that in September I will go and see the Azzurri at the World Cup in France.
“I got excited (watching the win over Wales), and I was doing the play-by-play like a radio announcer. I had (under-secretary) Enrico Letta on the phone and he wanted me to tell him how the game was going, so I explained the final minutes to him in live time.”
– Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who had a visit from the Italian rugby squad at his offices today, shows he has become a keen follower of Pierre Berbizier’s side. He received a jersey and a signed ball from the players
“A lot of my practice would be visualising the point, closing my eyes and trying to picture where the ball is going. Whenever the call comes in, I’ll get myself ready and bring the ball back. I’ll see that target in my head a split second before I throw it so I’ll know where I am putting it.”
– Ireland hooker Rory Best, who has started six of Ireland’s last seven Tests, gives an insight into his lineout throwing technique
“Troncon has done really well and has come back from nowhere really.
“The fact Italy’s forwards are playing so well makes Troncon’s job easier but there is no doubt he has been a key man for them. He’s a great player and difficult opponent.”
– Ireland scrum half Peter Stringer offers his opinion on the 33-year-old Alessandro Troncon, the former Italian captain who will be the Corkman’s direct opponent on Saturday
52 – The number of Test match half-back pairings Alessandro Troncon had with Diego Dominiguez before the latter’s retirement from international rugby. The pair beat the previous world record set by Australia’s Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh
48 – Saturday’s game in Rome will see Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara start as Ireland’s half-backs for the 48th time
32 – Ireland’s top tackler in the 2007 Six Nation so far, Paul O’Connell (32 tackles), will sit out Saturday’s finale due to a thumb injury. Coincidentally, Italy’s leading tackler in the tournament, flanker Mauro Bergamasco (36 tackles), will also be miss the game due to suspension