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International
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John Kirwan has put together a squad of 30 players who will meet on 1 Feb in a game that ties in with Italy's preparations for the Six nations.

The Italy squad:

Wings/Fullbacks: Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Français), Gonzalo Canale (Benetton Treviso), Denis Dallan (Benetton Treviso), Nicola Mazzucato (Ghial Calvisano).

Centres: Matteo Barbini (Safilo Petrarca Padova), Manuel Dallan (Benetton Treviso), Andrea Masi (Arix Viadana), Cristian Stoica (Montpellier).

Fly-halves: Roland de Marigny (Overmach Rugby Parma), Rima Wakarua (Admo Leonessa Brescia).

Scrum-halves: Paul Griffen (Ghial Calvisano), Simon Picone (Benetton Treviso).

Loose forwards: Andrea De Rossi (Ghial Calvisano), Silvio Orlando (Benetton Treviso), Scott Palmer (Benetton Treviso),Sergio Parisse (Benetton Treviso), Aaron Persico (Leeds Tykes), Matthew Phillips (Arix Viadana), Maurizio Zaffiri (Ghial Calvisano).

Locks: Cristian Bezzi (Arix Viadana), Marco Bortolami (Safilo Petrarca Padova), Carlo Checchinato (Benetton Treviso), Santiago Dellape (Benetton Treviso).

Props: Martin Castrogiovanni (Ghial Calvisano), Salvatore Costanzo (Benetton Treviso), Gianluca Faliva (Benetton Treviso), Andrea Lo Cicero (Lazio & Primavera), Salvatore Perugini (Ghial Calvisano).

Hookers: Carlo Festuccia (SKG G.R.AN Parma), Fabio Ongaro (Benetton Treviso).

The World XBV was chosen in consultation with its two coaches - Frenchman Gilbert Doucet of Ghial Calvisano and former Springbok captain, Jannie Breedt of Benetton Treviso.

The World XV squad, so far:

Forwards: Caine Elisara, Milton Ngauamo (Ghial Calvisano), Pieter Myburgh (SKG G.R.AN Parma), Rodrigo Sanchez, Hernan Mazino (both Conad L'Aquila), Deon Kingi (Admo Leonessa), Lucas Ostiglia (Safilo Petrarca), Akvsenti Giorgadze, Vion Wium, Sorin Socaciu (all ARD Rovigo); Pierre Ribbens, Jaco Erasmus (both Benetton Treviso), Gregor Hayter (Arix Viadana).

Backs: Apenisa Vodo (Ghial Calvisano), Ross Cook (SKG G.R.AN Parma), Alesana Tuilagi (Overmach Parma), Ben Meyer (Admo Leonessa), Brendan Williams (Benetton Treviso), Tom Beim,

The All-Star match will be played at Stadio Communale di Monigo on February 7. After that the Italian side will be chosen to take on world champions England in Rome on February 15
 

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International
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Persico looking to drive Italy on

When Italy line up against world champions England this Sunday in Rome they will have an extra edge on previous encounters, with Leeds Tykes star Aaron Persico able to give his insight into the England players, being the only Italian player in the Zurich Premiership.

The 25-year-old Persico, who joined the Tykes this summer from Viadana, has won 36 caps for Italy since making his debut in 2000. He is the only member of John Kirwan's squad to play in the Zurich Premiership and he has been with the national team for the past fortnight.

"We have been together for two weeks which means that we have had a really good preparation," said Persico. "We have to train harder than all the other five nations because we need to improve more, but that means we have spent a lot of time together and have been able to play a warm up game against an All-Star team.

"This will be my fifth Six Nations and I'm really looking forward to it. At Leeds, there is a collective responsibility but with Italy, especially because I was not born in Italy, I have to really lead from the front.

"John Kirwan has always insisted if there is a straight choice between me and an Italian born player, he will get the nod. Because I learnt my rugby in New Zealand, John expects high standards from me every time which is only right and really spurs me on."

Persico qualifies for Italy through his Italian grandparents, who migrated to Wellington from Sorrento in the 1940s.

He was named as Italy's Player of the Tournament in last season's RBS Six Nations - also earning a spot in Planet Rugby's Team of the Tournament! - while he also featured in the Rugby World Cup for the Azzurri.

"I have come up against a lot of the England players with Leeds and I know we are in for an extremely tough game," he said. "Playing the world champions in Rome is a fantastic way to start this year's tournament and hopefully we can generate the same sort of interest that we had after the win against Wales last season.

"We always seem to achieve more when nothing is expected of us, in international terms we have found it difficult to deal with the favourites tag but that is something we will not have to worry about this week!"

Persico has quickly adapted to life in Leeds and has already become a firm favourite with the large Italian community in the city. He is sponsored by The Flying Pizza restaurant in Roundhay - renowned for its famous clientele including Sir Jimmy Saville, and has met several Italian fans at Headingley.

Persico will line up against new England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, this weekend and the Tykes back rower has revealed that there may be split loyalties in the Dallaglio household.

He said: "When we played at Twickenham last year I gave Lawrence my Italy team polo shirt for his Dad because I know he is a proud Italian, I'm sure it will be a special day for him on Sunday."
 

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A few views from fans after the England game: (taken from Planet-Rugby)

"No doubt the England was bound to win, but tactically the Italians never regrouped with depth and every time their backs were with ball in hands they had no penetration power because they were starting from a still position. I hope Kirwan will look into this in the next matches."
- Paul Ames

"Is it not time to bring Pez in from the cold and instill some competition in the Italian No.10 position at least Pez can tackle, has an eye for a gap can launch the backline and even had a sniff of the England tryline. Wakarau is so one-dimensional that Italy end up going backwards and doesn't seem to have a gameplan - or even be able to read the situation and appears to ponderous."
- Claudio N
 
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