Italy coach not taking Tonga for granted ahead of Australia and New Zealand
Last Updated: 09/11/12 3:37pm
Italy coach Jacques Brunel insists his team are fully focused on the vital fixture against Tonga on Saturday, rather than looking ahead to the upcoming clashes against Australia and New Zealand later this month.
Brunel is clear that his priority is for Italy to begin their November Test schedule with victory when they meet Tonga in Brescia at the weekend.
The head coach said: "We've been training with the best possible squad but we're not thinking about the two games we have coming up later.
"We've won three of our last four games and our goal is to keep the momentum going. The only game I'm thinking about is Tonga, we're not thinking about what comes later."
Despite these claims though, the Azzurri boss does seem to be concentrating on the claches with the Wallabies and All Blacks.
He has left some established players on the bench for the match against the Pacific Islanders, with Italy wing Mirco Bergamasco sidelined through injury, yet prop Martin Castrogiovanni will start from the bench as Lorenzo Cittadini is handed a rare start in his hometown.
Brunel added: "Both are international level props but Cittadini has played more at this early stage of the season than Castrogiovanni and in his hometown I think Lorenzo deserves the chance to start the game."
With Italy starting Saturday's match as firm favourites, Tonga head coach Mana 'Otai knows that his side face a challenging task, with their last victory over the Italians during the 1999 World Cup.
Mana had very little time in which to trim his Sea Eagles squad during a three-day training camp in Gruissan, France, with the team having been in Brescia training this week.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Tommaso Iannone, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchie, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Simone Favaro, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Giovambattista Venditti.
Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Sukanaivalu Hufanga, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Viliami Helu, 10 Fangatapu 'Apikotoa, 9 Taniela Moa (capt), 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Sione Vaiomo'unga, 6 Sitiveni Mafi, 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 4 Joe Tu'ineau, 3 Halani 'Aulika, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Ilaisa Ma'asi, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Hale T-Pole, 19 Paula Kaho, 20 Samisoni Fisilau, 21 Alipate Fatafehi, 22 Viliame Iongi, 23 Soane Tonga'uiha.