Italian prop facing race against time for Ireland clash
Italy are holding out hope that hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini can beat his shoulder problem in time to face Ireland in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash in Dublin.
Leicester Tigers hooker Ghiraldini suffered damage to his right shoulder in Italy's 36-20 defeat to Scotland on Saturday, February 27.
The 31-year-old had only just recovered from a hamstring problem he suffered in the autumn's World Cup, and suffered a new injury blow as Italy slipped to defeat in Rome.
Now the Azzurri will hand the vastly experienced 81-cap front-rower every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Aviva Stadium encounter, with scrum-half Edoardo Gori another doubt.
"We are waiting to evaluate Edoardo Gori and Leonardo Ghiraldini," said team manager Luigi Troiani.
"Gori showed a small rib fracture against Scotland, while with Ghiraldini we are monitoring the progress on an injury to his right shoulder, the trapezius muscle.
"We will wait to assess both players."
Ghiraldini missed Leicester's 31-27 Premiership victory over Exeter Chiefs on Sunday, with rugby director Richard Cockerill admitting in advance he did not know how long the abrasive front-rower's latest injury would keep him sidelined.
Italy have added uncapped Zebre hooker Oliviero Fabiani and rookie Treviso scrum-half Alberto Lucchese as cover for their senior stars still battling injury.
Fabiani would most likely cover hooker from the bench with Treviso's Davide Giazzon promoted to start should Ghiraldini fail in his fitness quest.
Zebre's Guglielmo Palazzani will be waiting in the wings to start at nine if Gori is unable to win his 51st cap in Dublin.
Both Italy and Ireland will be chasing their first win of the tournament at the fourth time of asking on Saturday.
Two-time reigning champions Ireland have relinquished their title after two defeats and a draw, leaving the Italians fully expecting a backlash on their travels this weekend.
Forwards coach Giampiero De Carli admitted Italy must "eliminate the major mistakes" if they are to turn close-run defeats into victories.
De Carli challenged Italy to carry a grittier edge into the Ireland clash, frustrated the Azzurri allowed Scotland to dictate too many of the terms in the third-round loss.
"Against Scotland we did good things and could have won the game," said De Carli.
"We are on the right track but we have to eliminate the major mistakes.
"Compared to a few months ago we can go through many more phases in attack, which is a sign of good work.
"But we have to be more cynical and have a greater competitive nastiness in some situations."