World Cup Preview: Italy

Group C Opposition: Australia, Ireland, USA and Russia

Pedigree: Not good.  Italy have never really brought the ferocity with which they play in the Six Nations to bear on a World Cup.  They have never been in the quarter finals before.

Players to watch: Italy’s hopes tend to rest on the impressive shoulders of one extraordinary man.  Sergio Parisse is the world’s premier Number 8; the phenomenal combination of glue-like hands, ferocious physicality and insatiable desire to win mke him the sort of player it is just a pleasure to watch.  He is helped out in the backrow by the excellent lieutenant Alessandro Zanni.  Italy need a bunch of backs to capitalise on the forward power, and they will be hoping that Tomasso Benvenuti and Andrea Masi will provide a spark of creativity to turn pressure into tries, and hopefully Fabio Semenzato follows through on an excellent 6 Nations.
Good tournament: They need to beat Ireland and make the quarter finals.

Bad tournament: If they go out in the group stages it will be a disappointment.

Prospects: Italy are in the best shape they have ever been in, and they have a reasonable chance of achieving their aim.  The days of the 60-minute Italian performance have been banished, and the Italian players are now fit and able for the full 80. Indeed, they staged late rallies this year to defeat France and scare Ireland. Gone, also, is the awful first-up tackling that allowed opponents to rack up scores with minimal creativity.  They won’t go down easily.

This is Nick Mallet’s last tournament in charge, and the players will surely want to do their marvellous coach justice. They need a couple of things to go in their favour.  They need Australia to beat Ireland, preferably handsomely, thereby making the final game in Dunedin a winner-takes-all shootout, the very type of occasion that will make Ireland edgy.  Then they need a rainy day in Dunedin (not a whole lot to ask for, by all accounts) and as many scrums as possible.  Then all bets are off.

Where they lack is at fly-half and in remaining composed in clutch situations.  They should have beaten Ireland in the Six Nations (Wales too), but when the pressure was on, they fudged a restart and allowed Ireland into drop goal territory.  Meanwhile, the search for the next Diego Dominguez goes on. Following Craig Gower’s injury (and subsequent code switch), and Kyle Burton being banished, Luciano Orquera will be the man responsibe for guiding Italy from the pivot role.  He will need to shape up and fast if Italy are to finally make an impact at a World Cup.

Verdict: Almost certain to come down to a nailbiting finish, but we suspect they’ll probably come up just short. 3rd in group.

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6 Comments

  1. Italy may get a rainy day in Dunedin but it won't count for much as the match will be played indoors in the best new stadium to be built for the RWC (Forsyth Barr Stadium – will be called Otago Stadium for some reason during the competition: http://youtu.be/nIKQukIurHs)Based on the evidence to date during the warm ups I can't see Ireland beating Australia and frankly the Italians have got to be thinking that they have a chance there as well. It shouldn't happen but this is probably a good a chance as ever of Italy getting out of the group. You're right that first-five is their weakness and that should get Ireland past them, just.

  2. Wow – impressive. Is if called Otago Stadium the same way Aviva became "Dublin Stadium" for the UEFA Cup final!Got to agree on Group C – can't see Aus losing. But if Ireland do get second they surely have a shot against the Boks if they play out of thwir skin….Thoughts?

  3. I am actually confident that we will beat Italy. Logic being we play them in the last game in the group. Their performance against Japan on Saturday, admittedly I have only read about not watched, makes me think that they will have to play their first choice team on 3 consecutive weekends before they play us. I think we could be facing an Italian team that is exhausted from their exploits and we should have their number easily enough. However I am slightly fearful of Ireland's ability to only play to the level of the opposition, it is a while since we hammered the Italians (which given both teams on paper I really feel we should be doing consistently) but what better place to start than in the RWC?

  4. @Chris – a bit of local knowledge is a great help, thanks for that info!@JSRF – I think the days of hammering Italy are well and truly gone, particularly if their minds are on the job. I know England thrashed them, but I don't think they focused too hard on that game. You do make a point, though, that Italy are usually a bit punched-out by the end of tournaments, but I don't think they'll be worked overly by Russia and the US. They should have the resources to rotate a little. They will be targeting the Ireland match, and may not even go too hard against Australia.

  5. I'm just glad they aren't Argentina!Worst thing they could've done was nearly beat Ireland in 6 nations – hard to see them being taken lightly again and a focused Ireland should win comfortably, though probably not a stuffing.Australia shouldn't take any chances with them either though. They will need their best team for this fixture, because from what I've seen the Wallaby stand-ins would be vulnerable enough if Italy happened to get a run on them.

  6. Italy very nearly did a number on the Wallabies last November – the Italian front row shoved them all over the place…

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