Italy aim to impress in Six Nations Wales tie

Captain Sergio Parisse has been ruled out through injury but Kelly Haimona returns at fly-half as Italy prepare to draw a line under their disappointing Six Nations campaign at home to Wales on Saturday.

Italy aim to impress in Six Nations Wales tie
Kelly Haimon returns on Saturday after being dropped last week. Photo: Ian MacNicol/AFP

Parisse was forced off in Italy's 29-0 defeat to France in Rome last week and has not recovered from his ankle injury in time, meaning Fijian-born Samuela Vunisa comes in at number eight.

Italy team manager Luigi Troiani explained: "Parisse has made a lot of progress since Sunday, he's walking normally… but to have picked him would have put his recovery at risk."

Haimona was dropped last week in favour of Tommaso Allan but, with the latter sidelined after suffering a hamstring tear in the defeat to France, the New Zealand-born number ten returns to rekindle his half-back partnership with Edoardo Gori.

Italy have also made two changes to the front row, with Martin Castrogiovanni returning at tighthead prop and loosehead Michele Rizzo coming in for Dario Chistolini, who drops back to the replacements bench.

Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini takes over the captain's armband from Parisse.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel said: "Leonardo is one of the three vice-captains along with Marco Bortolami and (Quintin) Geldenhuys. He's the only one of the three in the starting XV, so the choice was logical."

Parisse's absence and Vunisa's switch to the number eight position means Brunel has brought Mauro Bergamasco in at openside flanker in what will be a rare start for the 101-times capped veteran.

Italy beat Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield three weeks ago to claim their first win of the campaign but despite sitting second bottom of the table two points ahead of the winless Scots, they remain in danger of finishing with the wooden spoon for the second successive year. Scotland are at home to title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh.    

Brunel added: "We're disappointed with our performance against France because we wanted to confirm our good display against Scotland.    

"I expect a difficult game on Saturday, but I also expect us to show what this team is capable of compared to our performance at the (Stadio) Olimpico last week."

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Italy’s rugby team don rainbow laces for Welsh legend

Italy's rugby team will wear rainbow laces during Saturday's game against New Zealand in support of former Wales captain Gareth Thomas.

Italy's rugby team don rainbow laces for Welsh legend
England's flanker Chris Robshaw wears rainbow laces at Saturday's game with Samoa. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP
Ahead of their meet in Rome, the Italian rugby federation tweeted that the move was “a gesture of solidarity” with the player. 
Wales, who face Fiji, and France, who play South Africa, have already said their players will be wearing rainbow laces during their games on Saturday. 
England, who play Australia, said they may not be able to join the effort because the rainbow laces do not fit into their boots.
Former Wales captain Thomas, 44, who came out as gay in 2009, posted a video on Twitter on November 18 saying he had been a victim of a hate crime in Cardiff “for my sexuality”.
Police dealt with a 16-year-old boy using restorative justice following a request by Thomas, who wanted to send a “positive message”.