British & Irish Lions

Italy skipper Bigi relishing Six Nations clash with Wales

Luca Bigi (AFP)
Luca Bigi (AFP)

Cardiff - Italy captain Luca Bigi says his side "are ready to play" heading into their daunting Six Nations opener away to champions Wales.

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The Azzurri go into Saturday's match in Cardiff on a run of 22 successive defeats in the tournament dating back to 2015.

They will also be without talisman Sergio Parisse as the former skipper enters the closing stages of an impressive career.

But Zebre hooker Bigi has urged Italy to savour the occasion rather than be overawed by running out in front of a raucous home crowd at the Principality Stadium.

"We have worked very hard in a 10-day training camp for this match," he said.

"We know it will be tough to play against Wales, but we are focused on our work and we want to be the best we can be.

"Wales are physical. They have put (George) North in the middle of the pitch to be physical, so we will be prepared about that.

"Preparations have been great and we are ready to play."

Parisse appears to be aiming for a Test farewell in the final round of this season's Six Nations, when Italy play England in Rome.

"It is a privilege and an honour to follow Sergio as captain," Bigi said.

"He sent me a text last week and asked how the training was going, so he is in touch with us.

"We always play to win. We focus on ourselves, and it is about doing our basics right and building our game."

Bigi added the improving form of Italy's leading clubs was an encouraging sign for the Azzurri, now under caretaker coach Franco Smith after Conor O'Shea stood down following last year's World Cup in Japan.

"Benetton and Zebre are making a good impact in the PRO14 and in Europe, and a lot of positivity has come from that," he said.

"To play in this kind of stadium will be great. We have to play with emotion, but also with control."

Teams:

Wales

15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 George North, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 1- Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones

Substitutes: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Nick Tompkins

Italy

15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Giosue Zilochhi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzami, 23 Jayden Hayward

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