Mallett plays down Parisse loss
Italian coach Nick Mallett is confident that his wooden- spoon favourites can cope without the peerless Sergio Parisse ahead of their visit to Croke Park to face Ireland next week.
"It would be a sad situation if Italy was only a competitive team when Sergio Parisse was playing," said Mallett.
"It's fantastic to have a player like him, but in the broader context of the team, we can still perform without him."
Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini will captain the side in the absence of Parisse, who will miss the entire tournament with knee trouble.
Mallett, a South African who, nonetheless, insists on Italian being spoken at all team meetings, is not expecting to have to repeat last season's failed measure of playing flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrum-half. The Italy coach is not expecting victory in Ireland, but said home matches against England and Scotland are winnable.
"We're not in such desperate straits as last year when I had to pick Mauro at scrum-half because I didn't have anyone else available," he added. "Last year was a very poor selection forced upon me by circumstances."
Meanwhile, London Irish No 8 Chris Hala'ufia has been banned for four weeks after pleading guilty to striking Leinster captain Leo Cullen.
Tongan international Hala'ufia was cited following last Saturday's 11-11 draw at Twickenham.
The independent judicial officer Jean-Noel Couraud took into account Hala'ufia's admittance of guilt before banning him until February 25.
Both parties have the right to appeal.