Brunel overhauls Italy for his 6 Nations debut
Updated: February 01, 2012, 11:18
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ROME(AP) New coach Jacques Brunel changed nearly half of Italy's team for his Six Nations debut against his home nation France at Stade de France on Saturday.
There were seven changes on Wednesday from the final match under Nick Mallett, a 36-6 pool loss to Ireland in October that eliminated the Azzurri from the Rugby World Cup.
Aironi winger Giovanbattista Venditti will make his debut on the right wing in a virtually all-new backline.
Only fullback Andrea Masi starts in the same position from the World Cup finale, with Tommaso Benvenuti switched from the right wing to center to pair with Benetton Treviso teammate Alberto Sgarbi. Apart from Masi and Venditti, the rest of the backline all hail from Benetton, which was mid-table in the Pro12, Europe's second-tier club championship.
Luke McLean will start on the wing for only the second time in his 33-cap career - the other was a try-scoring game against Russia in the World Cup.
Kris Burton, unwanted at the last two World Cups, will start at flyhalf for the first time since last year's Six Nations.
The forward pack was far more familiar, all of them from the World Cup and led again by No. 8 Sergio Parisse.
The only other newcomer in the 22 was Benetton Treviso scrumhalf Tobias Botes in the reserves.
Italy stunned France 22-21 for the first time in the Six Nations last year but still finished last.
Italy: Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean, Kristopher Burton, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zannni, Quintin Geldenhuys, Cornelius van Zyl, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero. Reserves: Tommaso D'Apice, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Simone Favaro, Fabio Semenzato, Tobias Botes, Gonzalo Canale.