Mallet makes four changes for France clash

Italy’s South African coach Nick Mallett sprang to the defence of suspended flanker Mauro Bergamasco after Wednesday naming his side to face France in Paris in a Six Nations match this weekend.

 

Italy are looking for their first win in this season’s tournament and welcome back former captain Marco Bortolami to the starting line up but Mallett was more concerned about the loss of the outstanding Bergamasco, who is currently seeing out a 13-week suspension for gouging the eye of Wales full-back Lee Byrne following the Azzurri’s 47-8 defeat in Cardiff.

“In the last five minutes there were things happpening to Mauro that caused him to lose his head,” complained Mallett.


“He was either punched or elbowed in the back of the head two minutes before the end of the game.


“Then in the last moments, when he caught the chip-kick, he was tackled around the neck and fell on his shoulder and injured himself in the tackle.


“I’m not excusing what Mauro Bergamasco did, there’s no excuse for the way he behaved, but there are reasons why he did.”

 

The return of lock Bortolami is one of the four changes made by Mallett for the match at the Stade de France.

Bortolami had been sorely missed by injury-hit Italy having been unavailable for the first two Six Nations matches due to a fractured cheek-bone and only on the bench against Wales.


He will fill in for the injured Santiago Dellape beside Carlo Antonio Del Fava.


Winger Kaine Robertson, who missed the trip to Cardiff last month because of a muscular problem, also returns.


In the third row, Alessandro Zanni benefits from Bergamasco’s ban, while in the front row prop Andrea Lo Cicero was preferred to Salvatore Perugini.


Italy are still looking for their first win having lost their first three matches, including a 16-11 defeat in Ireland and falling 23-19 at home against England.


And Mallett is not expecting things to improve greatly against the flair of the French.


“They’re a very difficult team for Italy to play against. France have a big squad and the ability to make big changes,” he said. “We have a far smaller squad and less opportunity to make changes.”


However, Mallett is at least expecting an improvement on the performance against Wales where they turned around at the break still in touch at 13-8 but conceded 35 unanswered points after the restart.


“In the first half we had the best of the play which almost led to (Gonzalo) Canale scoring a try,” added Mallett.


“In the second half with the first piece of action we gave them an interception try and then two minutes later Mirco (Bergamasco) got a yellow card and then not long after that (Andrea) Masi went off injured and we missed his solid defence.


“The last 20 minutes were tough, we missed a lot of tackles and had to make a lot catch-ups.”


Italy Team:


15.Andrea Marcato, 14.Kaine Robertson, 13.Gonzalo Canale, 12.Mirco Bergamasco, 11.Ezio Galon, 10.Andrea Masi, 9.Simon Picone, 8.Sergio Parisse (captain), 7.Alessandro Zanni, 6.Josh Sole, 5.Marco Bortolami, 4.Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 3.Martin Castrogiovanni, 2.Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1.Andrea Lo Cicero.


Replacements: 16.Fabio Ongaro, 17.Carlos Nieto, 18.Salvatore Perugini, 19.Jacobus Erasmus, 20.Pietro Travagli, 21.Enrico Patrizio, 22.Alberto Sgarbi.

 

SixNationsweb.co.uk

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