Six Nations
Italy sweat on Parisse fitness
ESPNscrum Staff
January 30, 2011
Italy captain Sergio Parisse wins the line-out against Andries Bekker, Italy v South Africa, Stadio Friuli, Udine, November 21, 2009
The talimanic Parisse missed last year's Six Nations through injury © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sergio Parisse
Teams: Italy

Italy are confident that captain Sergio Parisse will be fit for their opening Six Nations clash with Ireland in Rome next Saturday.

The talismanic No.8 suffered a dislocated finger during Stade Francais' 34-12 Top 14 defeat to Castres in mid-week but the injury is not thought to be serious. Following tests on the injury yesterday, Italy team doctor Roberto Pozzoni said, "Fortunately the dislocation didn't cause any nerve damage and we're confident he will recover to play against Ireland in Rome on February 5."

With flanker Robert Barbieri and centre Gonzalo Garcia also struggling with injuries, coach Nick Mallett has bolstered his squad with the addition of flanker Josh Sole, lock Valerio Bernabo and versatile back Matteo Pratichetti. All three appeared in Italy A's 45-17 defeat to England Saxons in Worcester on Saturday.

"We decided to increase the number of players available to us to 26 to allow the technical staff to prepare in the best way possible for the first two Six Nations matches," said team manager Luigi Troiani. "In the meantime we will continue to monitor the progress of the injuries to Sergio Parisse, Robert Barbieri and Gonzalo Garcia who are not yet able to train with the rest of the group.

"As for Paul Derbyshire, we decided to send him back to his club given that the muscular problem he had when he arrived at the get-together cannot be resolved in time for the first two games."

Parisse, who missed last year's tournament with a knee injury, is hoping to inspire a strong showing from the Azzurri in this year's Championship. "It's a very important year for us," Parisse said. "Not just because a special tournament like the Six Nations begins but also because it's a World Cup year.

"For us the most important thing is to start in the best possible way. We are not the strongest team in the Six Nations but we have everything that is needed to make life difficult for any rival. And we certainly want to improve with respect to 2010."

Following the clash with Ireland, Italy will then host Wales and France at the Stadio Flaminio before facing Scotland at Murrayfield in their final game on March 19.

"The game against Ireland will be a crucial match for us to understand where we are at and how many differences there are between us and them," said Parisse. "Ireland are, alongside England and France, favourites to win the tournament. They didn't shine in November but they have a solid and very experienced team.

"France have struggled in recent months but they are the tournament holders and will want to bounce back. Wales is perhaps the nation that is struggling more with respect to the others we will face.

"Scotland, a team that we have defeated in the past, have made progress like us and they beat South Africa in November and won twice against Argentina last summer. We want to do the best we can and end the tournament with a lot of confidence and with victories that will allow us to look ahead to the rest of the campaign with optimism."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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