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Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bergamasco handed scrum-half role

SIX NATIONS England v Italy
Date: Saturday, 7 February Kick-off: 1500 GMT Venue: Twickenham
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Red Button, Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport website

Mauro Bergamasco
Mauro Bergamasco has also played on the wing for his country

Italy have given Mauro Bergamasco the scrum-half jersey for Saturday's Six Nations opener against England.

The Stade Francais flanker, 29, takes the number nine jersey after Pablo Canavosio, Simone Piccone and Pietro Travagli were all ruled out injured.

Bergamasco, who has never played at scrum-half for Italy, has been working on his passing and kicking in training.

Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni returns after a one-year absence because of injury.

It is the second successive Six Nations that Italy have gone into the Six Nations with an experimental half-back line-up.

Last year, Andrea Masi was used at fly-half but the move had mixed results and he was switched back to the centre and full-back after the tournament ended.

Bergamasco's switch was confirmed after Canavosio failed to recover from a problematic knee injury.

However, Mallet had considered using Bergamasco before the withdrawal and had tried him out in that position during training.

This is a difficult game for Mauro but the whole team is behind him

Italy coach Mallett

Piccone and Travagli have already been ruled out of the entire Six Nations.

"I didn't have much choice," said Mallett. "I wanted to play Canavosio but he is injured as are Piccone and Travagli.

"Mauro is not ideal because he has never played before in this role but this is my choice and I take full responsibility.

"This is something I want to try. Mauro has no fear of these type of games and I hope he has a great game against England.

"The game at Twickenham will be very difficult. He will be under a lot of pressure. But I have gone with him because he is a player who has experience - he has earned 69 caps for Italy already.

"I believe Bergamasco will make more tackles on Saturday than had he played on the back row.

"This is a difficult game for Mauro but the whole team is behind him. I want Mauro to go into this game in the best possible psychological condition."


For the Twickenham contest, Bergamasco will partner fly-half Andrea Marcato while his younger brother Mirco has been moved from centre to wing to accommodate the centre pairing of Gonzalo Canale and Gonzalo Garcia.

Mallett has included uncapped Venezia lock Jean-Francois Montauriol on the bench.

Castrogiovanni, who was Italy's top try-scorer in last year's Six Nations, says he is delighted to be back in the Italy team but has played down expectations over his contribution at the weekend.

"I have been out for a long time," he said. "I am very happy to be playing.

"Although I am not yet in the best form to play at the highest level, I will give everything I have on Saturday and if I can play 40 or 50 minutes that will be good."

Italy, who lost 17-25 against the Pacific Islanders in their last match back in November, had only one victory in last year's Six Nations - beating Scotland 23-20.

Italy team to face England:

Masi (Biarritz); Robertson (Viadana), Canale (Clermont Auvergne), Garcia (Calvisano), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais); Marcato (Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais); Ongaro (Saracens), Perugini (Toulouse), Castrogiovanni (Leicester), Dellape (Toulon), Bortolami (Gloucester), Sole (Viadana), Zanni (Calvisano), Parisse (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Festuccia (Racing Metro Paris), Nieto (Gloucester), Reato (Rovigo), J-F Montauriol (Venezia), Toniolatti (Capitolina), McLean (Calvisano), Pratichetti (Calvisano).

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see also
Review - 2008 Six Nations season
02 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Axed Cipriani starts for Saxons
04 Feb 09 |  English
Nervous wait for England's newest star
30 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Italy consider Bergamasco switch
28 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Italy 14-22 Argentina
15 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Italy 20-30 Australia
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Johnson targets England revival
29 Jan 09 |  English
Trio released from England squad
27 Jan 09 |  English
Armitage replaces injured Moody
26 Jan 09 |  English
Foden & Morgan get England calls
14 Jan 09 |  English

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