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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Pez suffers World Cup axe
Ramiro Pez
Pez was Italy's first-choice kicker
Italy coach John Kirwan has sprung a surprise by leaving fly-half Ramiro Pez out of his squad for the World Cup.

Pez had been the first-choice fly-half ever since Diego Dominguez departed the scene at the end of Italy's Six Nations campaign.

And, although Dominguez reportedly refused an offer to return, Pez was still omitted from the squad.

The decision effectively leaves Italy without a recognised goal-kicker of international calibre.

"We had placed our faith and our hopes in Pez but, for one reason or other, he did not reach the height of our expectations or what we demanded," said Italy manager Marco Bollesan.

"The boy clearly has great potential but on the pitch he has not managed to express it.

"We decided it was too great a risk to put our faith in him for the World Cup."

I thought that at 33 it would have been the end with the national team
Italy forward Carlo Checchinato

Kirwan has instead given a surprise call-up to New Zealand-born Rima Wakarua, who plays for Leonessa Brescia.

"We thought about Wakirua at the last minute and he was already under observation as he has played in Italy for four to five years, speaks fluent Italian and is making an Italian family," said Bollesan.

"He is proud to wear the blue jersey and has a month to get used to playing for the team."

Although Kirwan can only name 30 players for the trip to Australia, he has picked a squad of 31.

The Italian Rugby Federation explained that one player will go as cover, although it did not reveal who that would be.

Veteran forward Carlo Checchinato, who scored a try as substitute in the 31-22 win over Georgia at Asti last weekend, has made the squad.

He won his 76th cap - and first for a year - against Georgia and will be taking part in his fourth World Cup.

"I thought that at 33, it would have been the end with the national team," said Checchinato.

"The last Test match that I played was for the World Cup qualification against Romania one year ago. Then I picked up a foot injury and I was not able to return."

The Bergamasco brothers Mauro and Mirko are both included, with Mauro listed in his preferred position as a flanker.

Italy begin their World Cup campaign against New Zealand in Melbourne on 11 October and face Tonga, Canada and Wales in their other pool games.

Italy squad

Backs: Gert Peens (Overmach Parma), Gonzalo Canale (Treviso), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Nicola Nazzucato (Calvisano), Denis Dallan (Treviso), Alessandro Stoica (Montpellier), Manuel Dallan (Treviso), Andrea Masi (Viadana), Matteo Barbini (Padova), Vincenzo Zullo (Calvisano), Rima Wakarua (Brescia), Francesco Mazzariol (Gran Parma), Alessandro Troncon (Treviso), Matteo Mazzantini (Viadana).
Forwards: Andrea De Rossi (Calvisano), Aaron Persico (Leeds), Andrea Benatti (Viadana), Matthew Phillips (Viadana), Scott Palmer (Treviso), Sergio Parisse (Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Cristian Bezzi (Viadana), Santiago Dellape (Treviso), Carlo Checchinato (Treviso), Marco Bortolami (Padova), Andrea Lo Cicero (Lazio and Primavera), Salvatore Perugini (Calvisano), Martin Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), Ramiro Martinez (Treviso), Fabio Ongaro (Treviso), Carlo Festuccia (Gran Parma).

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