Italy call up South African Tobias Botes

South African Tobias Botes has been called up to the Italy squad for this weekend’s Six Nations opener against France in Paris following an injury to Luciano Orquera.

With Argentina-born Aironi fly-half Orquera ruled out with a hamstring problem, scrum-half Botes has been given his opportunity.

Botes is the first choice number nine at Treviso, ahead of Italy pair Fabio Semenzato and Eduardo Gori, but he has the versatility to also play at fly-half and even on the wing.

Having spent four years playing in Italy he is now eligible for the national team and although he is currently keeping both Semenzato and Gori out of the starting line-up at club level, he had been overlooked on the international stage — until now.

Looking ahead to the clash at the Stade de France, Italy and Racing Metro prop Andrea Lo Cicero says the time has come for the Azzurri to take the next step.

Italy earnt an historic first Six Nations victory over France last year but Lo Cicero says that’s not enough as they still finished with the wooden spoon.

“It’s a victory we remember but nothing changed, what matters is winning something important to be part of your country’s history,” he said.

“Beating France is like beating any other team, it’s just a win and we must win more games to show we’ve done well, rather than beating France and then playing terribly against Scotland in the next match.

“We want to win two or three games and get more positive results rather than just playing well, that’s enough of that, we’ve been playing well for 10 years.

“I don’t want to be happy with the minimum and staying there while the others are improving with us just watching, we need to follow them.”

The 35-year-old believes Italy must avoid making mistakes and impose themselves on the French if they are to enjoy any success on Saturday.

“We have to look to impose ourselves physically, impose our game and stop them from playing,” he said.

“Certainly that’s the important point to follow for 80 minutes. From the slightest error you make they can exploit it and score so we have to make as few mistakes as possible.”

Full-back Andrea Masi, who also played in Paris with Racing Metro for two years before joining Aironi this season, believes aggression will be the key.

“We have to concentrate on our attitude, we have to be determined and aggressive because that’s the only way to put a more powerful team in difficulty,” he said.

“They’re better than us but we can have our say, if we’re determined and organised we can do something.”

Masi spent five years in France, including three with Biarritz, and now that he is back playing in his own country he sees no reason why Italy cannot take the next step at Six Nations level, despite finishing with the wooden spoon nine times in 12 years.

“We believe, we have to believe, it’s fundamental to believe we can arrive at that point, not winning the tournament but to be in contention to win every game,” he said.

“An incident could make a difference but we have to be in contention to win every game, like we were last season with the exception of the match against England.”

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