Italy fear red tide will wash them away

Andrew Baldock


Italy coach Jacques Brunel has underlined the enormity of his team's task against Six Nations title favourites Wales in Cardiff tomorrow.

Brunel has acclaimed Wales as "the strongest team in the tournament".

And despite the Azzurri boss making seven changes following a 42-10 defeat against Ireland last time out, Italy will arrive at the Millennium Stadium as rank outsiders.

Six previous Cardiff visits have produced an average scoreline of 39-14 in Wales' favour, and a similar outcome is widely anticipated this time around.

"Wales are the strongest team in the tournament," Brunel said. "They have a lot of quality.

"They have rhythm, they are accustomed to playing together and they possess so many great players.

"It will be an interesting challenge for us, especially for our defence, which needs to be better than it was in Dublin."

Brunel's most notable switch sees the return of goal-kicking wing Mirco Bergamasco, who has recovered from a shoulder injury that put his Test career in cold storage after the World Cup.

Bergamasco booted the winning penalty when Italy beat France last season, although Brunel has yet to decide if he will be given that responsibility or hand it to recalled fly-half Kristopher Burton.

"Bergamasco is well, he is fit and has recovered well from his shoulder operation," added Brunel, who also dismissed any fears about skipper Sergio Parisse's fitness.

For his part, Parisse accepts that Italy are up against it, and he even doubts whether the Azzurri can threaten a shock result this weekend.

"We beat Wales in 2007 in Rome, but at this moment I can't say that we really can beat Wales because they are playing fantastic rugby," Parisse said.

"Going to Cardiff, to the Millennium Stadium, against this team is probably something impossible for us.

"Against Ireland we produced a good 40 minutes, but we were embarrassed in the second-half."