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Parisse looking for '80 minutes of intensity' from Italy in Six Nations opener

Sergio Parisse has underlined the need for Italy to produce an 80-minute performance when they begin their RBS 6 Nations campaign on Sunday.

The Azzurri have won just 12 of their 85 Six Nations Tests and been tournament wooden spoonists 11 times, with most pundits again predicting a sixth-placed finish this time around.

Opening opponents Wales have also inflicted their fair share of misery in recent seasons, winning the last two Six Nations encounters between the countries by topping 60 points each time.

Italy skipper Parisse and his opposite number at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend, lock Alun Wyn Jones, are the only starting XV survivors from the Azzurri's last victory over Wales 10 years ago.

But Parisse and company enter the tournament revitalised by a new coaching team of Conor O'Shea, Mike Catt and Brendan Venter, with added confidence generated by an historic victory over South Africa less than three months ago.

"Alun Wyn Jones was there when we beat Wales in 2007, but now the two teams are very different," Parisse told a pre-match press conference in Rome on Saturday.

"There is no link between the two games. I am happy to remember that day because of the great result, but it is now in the past.

"We have to be positive, and we are happy to begin another Six Nations campaign against Wales.

"This year, we have prepared for Wales in a different way. It's different to the way we prepared against South Africa and Tonga in November. We have trained very hard physically this week, and worked as hard as we can for this game.

"We deserve to be in this tournament because of the results we have had in the Six Nations. The wins we have had over Ireland, Scotland and Wales will remain in the memory, but now we are looking ahead and hoping to build our own history.

"The introduction of bonus points in the Six Nations won't change the way we play, but maybe it will change the approach of other teams against us.

"We are trying to make sure we don't slow down at the 60-minute mark. It is important we play for the full 80 minutes."

O'Shea will parade 10 of the starting line-up on Sunday that accounted for South Africa in November.

Edoardo Gori's return at scrum-half represents a solitary change from the back division that started the Springboks clash in Florence.

And that means no place for in-form Exeter centre Michele Campagnaro, who is named on the bench, with Luke McLean and Tommaso Benvenuti continuing their midfield partnership.

Parisse, meanwhile, wins his 122nd cap, packing down in a back row that also includes Six Nations debutant Maxime Mbanda.

And there will be an added incentive for the Azzurri, with Italy President Sergio Mattarella set to attend a rugby Test match for the first time.

"As always when we play against Wales I expect a tough, very physical game," Parisse added. "They play with a lot of speed, so it won't be different this time.

"Our approach is not about winning or losing, it's about the performance.

"In the last two years against Wales, we have had tough results both in Rome and Cardiff. I am really confident we can put in a good performance tomorrow, and if we do that for 80 minutes then we will do well.

"We approach the match with the intent to produce 80 minutes of intensity. We have the quality to get the result."


From Belfast Telegraph