Italy coach Nick Mallett has unveiled his 30-man squad for the upcoming World Cup in New Zealand with the South African confident he can guide the Azzurri to their best ever result.
Mallett, who will be succeeded by Jacques Brunel after the tournament, broke the news at the Italian training camp in Villabassa, with the coach forced to axe six players from his provisional squad.
"We knew it would not be easy to choose 30 players for the World Cup," he said. "All the players that have trained this month have given their all' but continued 'We will go to New Zealand with the best team possible and we have no doubt that the quarter-finals will be within our reach."
The Italians have never progressed from the pool stages and they face a daunting task if they are to reach their first ever World Cup quarter-final. They must overcome either Australia or Ireland in Pool C, which is completed by minnows USA and World Cup newcomers Russia.
Mallett has gone for a blend of youth and experience. Prop Andrea Lo Cicero competes in his fourth World Cup, whilst talismanic flanker Mauro Bergamasco returns to the international set-up after a year blighted with injury. Inspirational number 8 Sergio Parisse captains the squad comprised of 16 forwards and 14 backs. Half of Mallett's youthful squad are making their World Cup debuts whilst he handed suprise call ups to the uncapped pair of Tommaso D'Apice and Cornelius Van Zyl.
"In the second row we have called up four players who can make a difference in organisation and lineouts, where we had problems in the Six Nations," said Mallett. "Marco Bortolami and Van Zyl have greatly contributed in the past few weeks to the organisation of our lineouts."
Italy will play two warm-up matches, first against Japan on 13 August in Cesena and Scotland in Edinburgh a week later before heading to New Zealand.
Forwards: Robert Barbieri, Mauro Bergamasco, Marco Bortolami, Martin Castrogiovanni, Lorenzo Cittadini, Tommaso D'Apice, Carlo Antonio Del Fava, Paul Derbyshire, Quintin Geldenhuys, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero, Sergio Parisse, Salvatore Perugini, Fabio Ongaro, Alessandro Zanni, Cornelius Van Zyl.
Backs: Tommaso Benvenuti, Mirco Bergamasco, Riccardo Bocchino, Gonzalo Canale, Pablo Canavosio, Gonzalo Garcia, Edoardo Gori, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luciano Orquera, Matteo Pratichetti, Fabio Semenzato, Alberto Sgarbi, Giulio Toniolatti.
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