Italy coach John Kirwan has revealed that injuries and illnesses have hampered his squad's preparations for their RBS 6 Nations opener against Ireland.
Kirwan's side face a daunting clash against Ireland at the Stadio Flaminio on Sunday and the New Zealander emerged from a squad meeting at La Borghesiana training ground on Friday claiming the sessions have not gone according to plan this week.
"It hasn't been an easy day," said Kirwan.
"We have been busy counting the injured players and there have also been a few with the 'flu, so we haven't had everyone available.
"Sadly, we haven't trained as we would have wanted all week, but today was definitely a better day."
However, it appears Kirwan will be able to call upon the services of Fabio Ongaro, who has recovered well from a groin injury and is likely to play at hooker ahead of Giorgio Intoppa, who has had the 'flu.
"I have good news about Fabio Ongaro who is 95% likely to start the match as hooker. This is great news for our game," added Kirwan.
"We have done good work, I have seen a determination and I'm sure on Saturday after a relaxing night tonight, anyone who has not been able to give their best will be able to.
"Our target is to win on Sunday and if that wasn't the case there would be no point in us being in the tournament."
Former captain Alessandro Troncon will start at scrum-half in place of Paul Griffen, who will be on the bench after recovering from a hamstring strain.
Troncon, who missed the whole of last year's tournament with a knee injury, is delighted to be back in the fray.
"The joy to play a match in one of the most important rugby tournaments in the World in unbelievable," he said.
"I'm ready to give my best to this young team, and if we will play like we can do I'm sure we can offer to the Flaminio fans a great match.
"The Irish are strong and very good overall, but here in Italy they have never had it easy, and we have always played the first match at a high standard. I'm sure this team will be hard for the Irish."
Mirco Bergamasco, who has become one of the most influential young players in Kirwan's team, is now playing alongside brother Mauro for both club and country, having joined French giants Stade Francais last season.
He missed last Saturday's trial match with the World XV All Stars at Catania but insists he is at his best for Sunday's opener at the compact Flaminio.
"I'm in very good form," said winger Bergamasco. "All the players are concentrating on doing our best in training or on the pitch against anybody.
"We believe we can get a good result on Sunday. I will try to be there all over the pitch. Whether in attack or defence doesn't matter and I'm ready to give all I have to offer."
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