Parisse calls for line-out improvements
Italy captain Sergio Parisse said on Friday that his team must sort out their line-outs if they are to have any chance of avoiding the wooden spoon in this year's Six Nations.
The Azzurri, who lost 24-3 to Wales in Cardiff last weekend, take on Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday, with both sides looking to avoid a fifth straight defeat in the competition.
"Scotland have a great line-out, they have agile jumpers and they're very mobile," said the Stade Francais back-rower. "Our line-out wasn't very good against Wales, we've worked hard on it to find options that will allow us to keep our ball.
"Defensively we'll try to put them under pressure but the main thing is to hold onto our ball.
"Throughout the Six Nations our line-out defence has been quite good but on our ball we've not performed very well and that will be the key."
Italy received a blow on Friday as first-choice hooker and line-out lynchpin Leonardo Ghiraldini was ruled out with a foot problem.
He has been replaced by veteran Fabio Ongaro, who has not played yet in this Six Nations and was not even named on the bench in the original formation.
The 34-year-old will also be making his 81st and final appearance in the blue shirt.
"I made the mistake of writing this on Twitter but tomorrow [Saturday] is Fabio Ongaro's last match for the national team," said Parisse.
"It's a special moment for him but also for us because as well as a teammate he's a friend and he's given a lot to this team. He's a vital player, he's one of the best hookers in Europe in my opinion.
"It will be a big loss but I'm confident Fabio will give his maximum until physically he can't any more and then Tommaso D'Apice will come on."
Parisse said he was disappointed at the criticism 34-year-old Ongaro has faced over his age and form for Italian club side Aironi, insisting he brought charisma and stability to the national team.
The captain also complained about an article in the Italian press on Friday that questioned how tight-head prop Martin "Castro" Castrogiovanni has managed to recover so quickly from the broken rib he suffered against England just over a month ago.
"Castro is a great player who we respect a lot and I'm really annoyed that anyone is calling into question his honesty and that of the staff," fumed Parisse.
"The staff showed commitment to work with him to put him in a condition to play this last game. It's a lack of respect for Castro, the staff and the team. I'm speechless."
Both Italy and Scotland come into the game after four straight defeats but Parisse maintained each side is better than their results might suggest.
"The reality is that both Scotland and ourselves have played good matches in this Six Nations," he added.
"We've both been close to getting good results but at the end we find ourselves in this last match playing [to avoid] last place.
"It's not disappointing to play them for last place, it's a match like all the others, and even more so because it's at home and we have a responsibility to play well in front of our fans.
"Against England we were very bitter [to lose narrowly 19-15], so tomorrow we have the possibility to play Scotland, who are a great team, even if no-one says so.
"They have shown in this tournament that they can play great rugby and put others in trouble. They were very unlucky against England and deserved to beat them [they lost 13-6]."
Italy - revised: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Joshua Furno, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.
Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 13.30 (12.30 GMT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)