Rugby: Lo Cicero in Italy XV for likely swansong

Three changes to Azzurri for last 6 Nations match against Irish

Rugby: Lo Cicero in Italy XV for likely swansong

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, March 14 - Andrea Lo Cicero has returned to Italy's starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations match against Ireland in Rome, which is likely to be the 36-year-old prop's last international game. The popular Sicilian, who is nicknamed 'Il Barone' (the baron) because his family has noble roots, is expected to announce his retirement from international rugby after Saturday's match. There is speculation that the forward, who plays club rugby in France for Paris side Racing Metro 92, may quit the sport all together. He returns to the starting XV after coming on as a replacement in last week's 18-11 defeat in England to make his 102nd international appearance and become the Azzurri's all-time most capped player. He made his first appearance for the national team against England in Italy's debut Six Nations campaign in 2000. Lo Cicero replaces Alberto De Marchi in one of three changes coach Jacques Brunel has made to his side. The other two were enforced by injury. Lorenzo Cittadini comes in for prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who limped off against England with a muscle strain, and openside flanker Simone Favaro takes over from Robert Barbieri, who also suffered a knock at Twickenham. Italy need to beat Ireland to be sure to avoid finishing last. They will be buoyed by their strong performance in London, where they gave Grand Slam-chasing England a nasty scare, after disappointing defeats to Wales and Scotland. "Our challenge is to find consistency, continuity," said Brunel, whose side are fifth in the table with the two points they earned by stunning France 23-18 on the opening day. "After France we struggled against Scotland (the week after). Now we're coming off the back of a good game at Twickenham. Let's hope we can play at the same level again. "The assessment we can give of our Six Nations will depend a great deal on the game against Ireland, from the result and the performance that we give". Ireland have not had a good campaign. They are only one point ahead of Italy after beating Wales and drawing 13-13 with France in Dublin last weekend. But Brunel is still wary of the Irish, who hammered his men 42-10 last year. "We played well in the first half last year in Dublin and at half time we were in the match, but in the second half we conceded two tries in a few minutes and we ended up with a heavy defeat," the coach said. "I remember that defeat and on Saturday it'll be just as hard. "Ireland have a well organised defence and they know how to score. They are certainly opponents with very few weaknesses". The Azzurri have never beaten Ireland in the Six Nations although they did notch three wins over them before they entered the tournament in 2000. Italy: Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Luke McLean, Luciano Orquera, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (capt), Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Joshua Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys, Leonardo Cittadini, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero. Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Michele Rizzo, Alberto De Marchi, Antonio Pavanello, Francesco Minto, Paul Derbyshire, Tobias Botes, Tommaso Benvenuti.

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