MILAN (Reuters) - Italy captain Sergio Parisse suffered a serious knee ligament injury on Thursday and could be missing for up to six months, which would rule him out of February’s Six Nations.
The number eight was earlier named in the team for Saturday’s final November test with Samoa but his place will now be taken by Josh Sole, the Italian federation said in a statement.
“At the moment the possibility of surgery can’t be excluded, which would have a recovery time of around 120 to 180 days,” Italy doctor Roberto Pozzoni said.
Stade Francais’s Parisse, who injured his right knee in training, has been a driving force for Italy and was especially impressive in their first November test when they bravely lost 20-6 to New Zealand in Milan.
Sole has come in as blindside flanker with Alessandro Zanni moving from six to number eight. Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini becomes captain and Antonio Pavanello takes Sole’s place on the bench.
Parisse’s injury is a big blow to the Azzurri, who are desperately seeking a victory in Ascoli on Saturday (1400 GMT) having never beaten the Islanders and having failed to win for over a year.
His absence means there are six changes to Nick Mallett’s starting lineup which lost 32-10 to South Africa in Udine last Saturday.
Scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi has replaced Simon Picone while Kaine Robertson has come back in on the wing for Matteo Pratichetti and centre Gonzalo Canale has taken over from Alberto Sgarbi.
Ghiraldini has returned in place of Fabio Ongaro and forward Mauro Bergamasco has replaced Simone Favaro.
Debutant flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino is on the bench.
The team paid a visit to L’Aquila on Wednesday to see how the rugby-mad Italian city is recovering from April’s earthquake which killed nearly 300 people.
“We hope our visit has prompted a smile for the whole region and can help the people look to the future with confidence,” Parisse, who has family links to the city, told reporters before suffering the injury.
15-Luke McLean, 14-Kaine Robertson, 13-Gonzalo Canale, 12-Gonzalo Garcia, 11-Mirco Bergamasco, 10-Craig Gower, 9-Tito Tebaldi; 8-Alessandro Zanni, 7-Mauro Bergamasco, 6-Josh Sole, 5-Quintin Geldenhuys, 4-Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain) 1-Salvatore Perugini
Replacements: 16-Fabio Ongaro, 17-Ignacio Rouyet, 18-Antonio Pavanello, 19-Simone Favaro, 20-Simon Picone, 21-Riccardo Bocchino, 22-Alberto Sgarbi