Brunel rings in the changes for Italy

by staff

Frenchman Jacques Brunel wasted no time in stamping his mark on his new role as Italy coach when he named his first squad on Monday ahead of the 2012 Six Nations.

Out went stalwarts such as prop Salvatore Perugini, lock Carlos Del Fava and utility back Mirco Bergamasco while uncapped youngsters Alberto De Marchi, Luca Morisi, Angelo Esposito and Giovambattista Venditti all find themselves part of the 30-man squad.

Italy start their Six Nations campaign away to France on February 4 at the Stade de France before hosting England at Rome's Stadio Olimpico a week later.

Former Perpignan head coach and France assistant Brunel will reduce his squad to 24 players before leaving for Paris.

And he made several surprise selections, leaving out Mirco Bergamasco and Gonzalo Garcia, both of whom are coming back from injuries, in favour of Monte Parma centre Morisi and wingers Esposito, an academy player, and Venditti, of Aironi.

There was no place either for scrum-half and utility back Pablo Cannavosio, who went to the World Cup under Nick Mallett but Australian-born Kris Burton was recalled after missing the global event in favour of Riccardo Bocchino, who has been dropped.

The biggest surprise of all perhaps was in the front row where experienced Aironi prop Salvatore Perugini has been overlooked in favour of his young club-mate De Marchi, 25, who was part of the pre-World Cup preparation squad but has never played for Italy.

Tommaso D'Apice, who went to the World Cup, will have the chance to add to his three caps, and earn his first in the Six Nations, as Fabio Ongaro is injured.

South African-born Del Fava, who is another returning from injury, has been overlooked at second row in favour of compatriot Cornelius Van Zyl, who only made his debut for Italy in the World Cup warm-up Test matches against Japan and Scotland.

The 29-year-old lock Antonio Pavanello, who earned five caps between 2005 and 2009, is called back and gets the chance to make his Six Nations bow.

Another who could make his first appearance in the competition is flanker Simone Favaro, who has not played for Italy for two years, largely due to injury.

Although there is plenty of inexperience and many youngsters in the squad, Brunel has packed it with many of Italy's most tried, tested and talented players.

Leicester Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni will lead the front row while former captain Marco Bortolami is one of four locks.

Current captain Sergio Parisse, of Stade Francais, is in there was well as flanker Mauro Bergamasco, now back home at Aironi after several years in France.

Italy squad

Forwards: Robert Barbieri (Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais/FRA), Marco Bortolami (Aironi), Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester/ENG), Lorenzo Cittadini (Treviso), Tommaso D'Apice (Aironi), Alberto De Marchi (Aironi), Paul Derbyshire (Treviso), Simone Favaro (Aironi), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Treviso), Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing-Metro/FRA), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais/FRA, capt.), Antonio Pavanello (Treviso), Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi), Cornelius Van Zyl (Treviso), Alessandro Zanni (Treviso)

Backs: Tommaso Benvenuti (Treviso), Kris Burton (Treviso), Angelo Esposito (Ruggers Tarvisium), Edoardo Gori (Treviso), Gonzalo Canale (Clermont/FRA), Andrea Masi (Aironi), Luke McLean (Treviso), Luca Morisi (Monte Parma), Luciano Orquera (Aironi), Roberto Quartaroli (Aironi), Fabio Semenzato (Treviso), Alberto Sgarbi (Treviso), Guilio Toniolatti (Aironi), Giovambattista Venditti (Aironi)