Italy centre Michele Campagnaro ruled out of Wales clash
Italy's demoralising RBS 6 Nations campaign has suffered another blow with influential Exeter centre Michele Campagnaro ruled out of Saturday's clash with Wales in Cardiff.
The Azzurri were shorn of 14 injured players for their 58-15 hammering by Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, but not even that raft of absentees could excuse away their limp nine-try defeat.
Italy were already severely hard-pressed to sneak a result against Wales this weekend, but will be tested even further without the in-form Campagnaro.
The 23-year-old has a medial knee ligament injury, so will miss the Wales clash that will be head coach Jacques Brunel's last match at the helm.
"The recovery time for Campagnaro is estimated at 10 to 15 days," said Italy team manager Luigi Troiani.
"That's obviously not enough for Saturday's match against Wales, and Giulio Bisegni will join the group this evening."
Italy have stayed on in Dublin after Saturday's Ireland loss, to minimise travelling and disruption ahead of their final-round showdown with Wales.
The Azzurri expect lock Marco Fuser to return to full training on Tuesday, while centres Gonzalo Garcia and Luca Morisi could yet beat minor knocks ahead of the weekend.
Brunel will take up the role of forwards coach with Bordeaux-Begles after the Six Nations, leaving the Italy post he has held since late 2011.
Not even a sizeable upset victory over Wales this weekend can alter the fact Italy are already consigned to their 11th Wooden Spoon in 17 years, after four straight defeats in this term's contest.
Brunel has overseen three last-place finishes in five Six Nations tournaments, but team manager Troiani insisted Italy can still close the campaign - and the head coach's tenure - in style.
"We must and we want to react," said Troiani.
"We started working as from today at the gym and on the field, and we are already looking forward to the game against Wales.
"We want to prepare for the match in the best way and we believe we can close this tournament leaving a positive imprint."