Sergio Parisse fighting to be fit for Ireland showdown
Italy talisman Sergio Parisse faces a battle to recover from a neck injury in time to face Ireland in Rome on Saturday.
The 33-year-old number eight underwent an MRI scan on Sunday night following Italy's 33-7 RBS 6 Nations defeat to Wales at the Stadio Olimpico.
Italy's medics believe Parisse has avoided serious injury, but must still prove his match fitness this week.
Head coach Conor O'Shea will doubtless give the 122-cap player as much leeway as possible to recover.
"Parisse yesterday underwent an MRI scan after trauma to his neck that he reported from the match," said Italy team manager Luigi Troiani.
"The examination did not show anything special, and already this morning he showed great signs of improvement.
"Tomorrow we hope to get him back on the pitch, to start to prepare for the match against Ireland."
Italy seized an early lead against Wales in Rome in Sunday's Six Nations opener, Eduardo Gori's converted try stunning Rob Howley's side.
Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and George North ran in second-half tries, however, as Wales powered home for a comfortable victory.
Former Ireland full-back O'Shea has made no secret of the size of his task with the Azzurri, but masterminded a stunning 20-18 win over South Africa in the November Test series.
Now the former Harlequins boss will coach a Test match team against his native Ireland for the first time, and he will be desperate to have captain and superstar Parisse fit and firing.
Forwards coach Giampiero De Carli insists Italy pushed Wales into a contest for three quarters of Sunday's clash - and now challenged his men to raise their level once again when Ireland pitch up in Rome.
"The team, up to a quarter of an hour from the end, was in the game and this is a fact," said De Carli.
"But we must take the result for what it is and look at the good things we have done and are doing."