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Italy makes 12 changes for Russia at World Cup

Updated: September 16, 2011, 00:01


NELSON, New Zealand(AP) Captain Sergio Parisse is one of only three players retained from Italy's starting lineup which lost to Australia for its second Rugby World Cup match against Russia.

The 12 changes to the team announced Friday are the most Italy has made at a World Cup since its second match in 2003. The 14 changes the Italians made on that occasion, following their 63-point opening match loss to New Zealand, produced a 24-point win again Tonga, its biggest points turnaround in tournament history.

Fullback Andrew Masi and 20-year-old Tommaso Benvenuti, who has moved from wing to outside center, were the other players to retain starting spots for Tuesday's match at Nelson.

Italy coach Nick Mallett sang Benvenuti's praises, describing him as a "very mature player for his age.''

"He is our fastest player and is as comfortable in the centers as he is on the wing,'' Mallett said. "He has played there a lot for Treviso, notably against Leicester and Perpignan, and knows what to do there. He is important to our decision-making.''

Another youngster, 22-year-old flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino, will start in his first Rugby World Cup match after playing eight previous tests for Italy.

"Obviously it is a great feeling and I am delighted to be picked,'' Bocchino said. "There are a lot of young players who have grown up together that are starting.''

He played against Russia at the Churchill Cup in June.

"They are a very tough team, physically strong and good in the backline as many of them have played Sevens,'' Bocchino said. "We have to maintain our concentration and try to show what we can do if we have the chance.''

Italy flanker Paul Derbyshire said the wholesale changes were justified.

"It is a long World Cup and we need to make changes throughout the tournament,'' Derbyshire said. "Russia aren't as strong as Australia or Ireland, so it is a good chance to try out different players.''

"We certainly expect to win this match, but we have to keep hold of the ball and take our chances when they come.''

Salvatore Perugini returns as starting loosehead prop for his first match since Italy's last 2011 Six Nations match in March.

Perugini has started 23 of his past 25 tests and is the only member of the starting XV who did not play in either Italy's warmup matches or its opener against Australia.

Pool C favorite Australia defeated Italy 32-6, scoring 26 unanswered points in the second half. Russia, making its first appearance at a World Cup, was beaten 13-6 by the United States on Thursday.

Russia is expected to name its team on Sunday.

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Italy: Andrea Masi, Giulio Toniolatti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Matteo Pratichetti, Luke McLean, Riccardo Bocchino, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Mauro Bergamasco, Paul Derbyshire, Marco Bortolami, Quintin Geldenhuys, Lorenzo Cittadini, Fabio Ongaro, Salvatore Perugini. Reserves: Tommaso D'Apice, Martin Castrogiovanni, Cornelius van Zyl, Alessandro Zanni, Pablo Canavosio, Luciano Orquera, Alberto Sgarbi.

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