Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2014 23:23 | By Agence France-Presse

Parisse returns as Italy look to stop England rugby tide

Captain Sergio Parisse returns for winless Italy's starting side as the Azzurri look to cap a disappointing Six Nations campaign with a win against title hopefuls England in Rome on Saturday.

Parisse returns as Italy look to stop England rugby tide

Italy's number 8 Sergio Parisse passes the ball during the Six Nations rugby union international tournament between Wales and Italy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on February 1, 2014 - by Ben Stansall

Italy coach Jacques Brunel made three changes to the side that started against Ireland last week where the Azzurri suffered a 47-7 defeat.

Parisse returns at No 8 in place of Paul Derbyshire, while in the front row Lorenzo Cittadini replaces injured prop Martin Castrogiovanni and Matias Aguero comes in for Alberto De Marchi, who drops to the bench.

England visit Stadio Olimpico looking to defend their perfect record in the tournament against Italy, although foremost on their minds will be a performance worthy of potential champions.

But if they are to overhaul leaders Ireland, in action against fellow title contenders France in Paris on Saturday, England may well need to win by a distance.

Ireland are currently 49 points better off than England on points difference, who are themselves 29 ahead of France, with all three teams having won three out of their four matches in the Championship.

Brunel admits that coming up against the "very physical" English leaves its mark and he is expecting a tough encounter in a game whose result, he says, could determine how he classifies Italy's poor tournament so far.

"England is a formidable challenge, first of all because of their physicality. You know when you've played against England, because you feel it the next day," said Brunel after unveiling his team on Thursday.

"England are coming to Rome to win the tournament, but they also have to hope results elsewhere go their way. With Ireland so far in front, they need a lot of points against us."

Although Italy lost heavily to Ireland last week, Brunel kept faith with the bulk of his starting side from Dublin, meaning there was no place at fly-half for Tommaso Allan.

Allan scored all 13 of Italy's first-half points in the 21-20 defeat to Scotland recently, but was restricted to replacing Luciano Orquera halfway through the second period in Dublin.

"If he (Orquera) is playing well, then there's no reason to change, although we do reserve the right to change things during the match," explained Brunel.

Castrogiovanni, meanwhile, failed to make the squad having suffered injuries to his ribs in Dublin.

After the defeat to Ireland, Brunel admitted one of his biggest tasks this week was keeping his players' minds focused on his long-term strategy of maturing in time for the World Cup in 2015.

"Our main problem this week was trying to maintain faith in our own style of game and our own potential," added Brunel.

"Some of our younger players are still growing, they haven't reched their potential yet.

"Now is a crucial step in that process."

However Brunel admitted that even a shock win against England would do little to erase what has been a mediocre campaign from the Azzurri.

"At the start of the tournament we set ourselves the objective of winning two games," said Brunel, who admitted their last-minute defeat to Scotland had dented morale.

"But the result from and the performance against Scotland was a blow and left us feeling disillusioned.

"If we beat England, then we could say 'it's a pity because we came close against Scotland and we had a good game against the Welsh' and so it would shed a more positive light on our campaign.

"But if we suffer heavy defeat on Saturday, then it will be a different appraisal altogether."

Italy team to play England in a Six Nations international at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Saturday (1230 GMT kick-off):


Luke McLean; Angelo Esposito, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia, Leonardo Sarto; Luciano Orquera, Tito Tebaldi; Sergio Parisse (capt), Robert Barbieri, Joshua Furno; Marco Bortolami, Quintin Geldenhuys; Lorenzo Cittadini, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matias Aguero

Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Michele Rizzo, Alberto De Marchi, George Biagi, Paul Derbyshire, Edoardo Gori, Tommaso Allan, Andrea Masi

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