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Rugby | International Rugby

Italy coach focused on Tonga



Italy coach Jacques Brunel insisted he was not thinking about the formidable challenges of New Zealand and Australia as he named his team Thursday for the first of three November tests, against Tonga.

The Azzurri host the All Blacks at Rome's Olympic stadium on November 17 before hosting Australia in Florence on November 24.

But Brunel said the priority is for Italy to maintain the good form they have shown recently when they meet Tonga in Brescia on Saturday.

"We've been training with the best possible squad but we're not thinking about the two games we have coming up later" against New Zealand and Australia, Brunel said.

"Our goal is to get a head start in the November tests. 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."

Brunel appears to be keeping his best players for the tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies.

Among the Italy stalwarts, Mirco Bergamasco is injured while prop Martin Castrogiovanni will start from the bench. Both Andrea Masi and Sergio Parisse, however, will start on Saturday.

South African-born Tobias Botes comes in at scrum half after a mediocre Six Nations tournament which he exited with an elbow injury against Scotland.

Italy will be facing Tonga for the fourth time in the nations' history, with Italy leading the series 2-1.

Tonga beat an emerging Italy 28-25 in Leicester during the 1999 World Cup, however the Azzurri have since made amends with a 36-10 win in the 2003 World Cup and a 48-0 rout in Prato, Italy in 2005.

Benetton Treviso centre Andrea Pratichetti was named to the squad Thursday in place of the injured Gonzalo Canale but did not make the squad for the Tonga game.

ITALY TEAM

Andrea Masi, Tommaso Iannone, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean, Kristopher Burton, Tobias Botes, Sergio Parisse (capt), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni, Joshua Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys, Lorenzo Cittadini, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero

Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Alberto De Marchi, Martin Castrogiovanni, Antonio Pavanello, Simone Favaro, Edoardo Gori, Luciano Orquera, Giovambattista Venditti

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