Italy captain Sergio Parisse will be available for his country’s RBS Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham on Sunday.
Italy team manager Luigi Troiani confirmed yesterday that Parisse’s ban for insulting the referee in a French league game last month had been reduced to 20 days on appeal.
And that means he can return to action this weekend after missing Italy’s 26-9 home loss against Wales 11 days ago.
Parisse, 29, was banned for 40 days – ten days of which were suspended – after being sent off in a Top 14 fixture between his club Stade Francais and Bordeaux-Begles.
His initial punishment meant he was sidelined until March 18, with Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni taking over as skipper against Wales.
But the Azzurri will now have 93-times capped No 8 Parisse back in their ranks to face England, and then Ireland in Rome six days later.
Meanwhile, Mako Vunipola looks set to be given his first start for England. The Saracens prop is the favourite to start ahead of Joe Marler at Twickenham after consistently making an impact in his seven appearances as a replacement.
And the 22-year-old could even play with younger brother Billy, who is in the England squad for the first time.
“That’s the dream for us to be out there together for my family. Hopefully one day that will happen,” said Mako.
Coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm his side tomorrow but there are likely to be five changes from the 23-13 win against France. Stand-off Toby Flood will replace the injured Owen Farrell while Danny Care, James Haskell and Tom Youngs are all pushing for starts. Croft is expected to be named on the bench.
Ireland got some positive news regarding Paddy Jackson’s fitness after he came through training last night. The 21-year-old took part in a normal kicking routine at the Aviva Stadium, meaning he is in line to be selected for Saturday’s match.
“Jackson came through as expected and will train fully with the squad [on Thursday],” read an IRFU statement.
Uncapped Leinster stand-off Ian Madigan was also part of the practice session. Ireland coach Declan Kidney left No 10 blank at Tuesday’s team announcement to give him time to assess the fitness of Jackson.