Turin - Italy veteran Marco Bortolami was sidelined while Valerio Bernabo was
a surprise inclusion as Italy named their 31-man squad for the Rugby World
Cup on Monday.
Second row forward Bortolami, 35, has amassed 112 caps for the Azzurri and captained Italy 40 times over the years.
But he was one of several players cut from an initial 40-man training camp squad by coach Jacques Brunel.
was very difficult to communicate the decision, especially when you've
put in as much work as the lads have over the past nine weeks," said
"So to tell several players they were not coming to the World Cup was particularly difficult.
"Bortolami has represented Italy very well over the years, so it was a particularly difficult decision for us."
said Bernabo, who put in a "solid" performance in a 16-12 defeat to
Scotland at the weekend, gave Italy the added bonus of versatility.
"He is a lock but he can also play as a flanker, and that is a bonus for us at the World Cup," added the Frenchman.
was part of Italy's World Cup squad in 2007 but after being left out of
the 2011 squad, he is now back among the Azzurri.
is all the more interesting because he was left without a club at the
end of the 2013-2014 season after leaving Treviso.
Bernabo signed for Zebre after being called up by the Italian club and has not looked back.
have to thank Zebre for giving me the opportunity to play again and for
allowing me to fight my way back into the national team," Bernabo said in Turin.
Italy finished this year's Six Nations with more
questions than answers about their World Cup hopes after a mediocre
campaign in which a narrow win over Scotland was the only positive note.
Italians have been drawn in a tough Pool D with hosts France, Ireland,
Canada and Romania in England next month, and Brunel added: "We know
it's not going to be easy against the likes of France and Ireland, who
are favourites to progress out of the group.
"But you can't forget
that we've beaten both sides in the Six Nations, in 2013. At the same
time, we can't afford to underestimate Canada and Romania.
"Our aim is to get out of the group. Up till now, we've had a mixed bag of results and performances since the last World Cup.
"But all of our preparation period is over. It's time to prepare ourselves for one month of intense competition."
Bernabo, who has fond memories of his last World Cup, in 2007, is confident Italy can spring a surprise or two.
"Every game will be like a final for us," he added.
remember the last World Cup, running on to the field against the All
Blacks, looking at my jersey with the World Cup logo and realising how
big a stage I was on.
"I'm relishing the opportunity to do it
again and I know that, after two intense months of training, the lads
are all itching to play."
Italy Rugby World Cup squad:
Matias Aguero (Zebre), Martin Castrogiovanni (Toulon/FRA), Dario Chistolini (Zebre), Lorenzo Cittadini (Wasps/ENG), Michele Rizzo (Leicester/ENG), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Leicester/ENG), Davide Giazzon (Treviso), Andrea Manici (Zebre), Valerio Barnabo (Zebre), Joshua Furno (Newcastle/ENG), Marco Fuser (Treviso), Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre), Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre), Francesco Minto (Treviso), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais/FRA-captain), Samuela Vunisa (Zebre), Alessandro Zanni (Treviso)
Carlo Canna (Zebre), Edoardo Gori (Treviso), Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre), Marcello Violi (Calvisano), Tommaso Allan (Perpignan/FRA), Tommaso Benvenuti (Bristol/ENG), Michele Campagnaro (Treviso), Angelo Esposito (Treviso), Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre), Andrea Masi (Wasps/ENG), Luke McLean (Sale/ENG), Luca Morisi (Treviso), Leonardo Sarto (Zebre), Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre)