Italy v Australia, November 24
Italy primed for Wallabies tussle
November 22, 2012
Nick Cummins goes over against England © Getty Images
Australia travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi to face Italy on Saturday and will be looking to make it two from two after their triumph at Twickenham last weekend.
The Wallabies headed into their clash with England on the back of a poor showing against France and were under pressure to impress. And they did just that with a performance packed with clinical finishing and solid defence. Nick Cummins scored his first try in the green and gold of Australia while Berrick Barnes kept the scoreboard ticking over and helped them to their 20-14 triumph.
Their place in the top four of the IRB rankings is looking more secure than it did prior to Saturday's match and they will stay in the mix of the top seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw if they win this weekend. But if they lose by more than 15 points, and England defeat the Springboks by the same margin, then England will leap into the top four with Australia potentially dropping out.
Italy look set to stay in the third batch of seeds and have a win and loss to their name in the November Tests. The Azzurri defeated Tonga in the first Test a fortnight ago but were out powered and outmanoeuvred by the All Blacks last weekend, though they did receive widespread praise for their tenacious performance.
Italy - Player to Watch: It has to be that man Sergio Parisse. In a team that has struggled to really establish a foothold among the other prominent rugby playing nations in Europe, Parisse has been their constant stand-out world class player.
Italy - Team News: Jacques Brunel has made two changes in the pack with Quintin Geldenhuys starting in place of Antonio Pavanello while Robert Barbieri gets the nod over Simone Favaro in the back-row. In the backs, Brunel has opted to keep the same line-up with last weekend's try-scorer Alberto Sgarbi retaining his place at inside centre. On the bench, Michele Rizzo replaces Alberto de Marchi, Favaro steps in for Mauro Bergamasco and Manoa Vosawai also gets the nod.
Australia - Player to Watch: Drew Mitchell retakes his place in the side at the expense of Digby Ioane and will be hoping to make some noise having sat out much of the past 18 months due to injury. He is an immensely talented player and if given space, he can cause the opposition a headache.
Australia - Team News: Robbie Deans has made four changes for the match with Italy with scrum-half Brett Sheehan making his first start for the Wallabies having replaced Nick Phipps who drops to the bench. The other changes to the starting XV see winger Drew Mitchell swap roles with Digby Ioane, blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham also getting the nod, having returned from a two-game suspension, while Stephen Moore gains his first start since the second Bledisloe Cup Test of the year in August, taking over from Tatafu Polota Nau who will sit out the clash with general stiffness. James Hanson comes on to the bench.
Andrea Lo Cicero fronts up against the All Blacks © Getty Images
Key Battle: Australia answered their front-row critics with a strong showing in the scrum against England last weekend but it will not get any easier for Deans' men on Saturday. The Italian front-row is packed with experience and it should be a great tussle in that department.
Trivia: No Italian player has ever scored more than one try in a Test match against Australia.
Stats: The Wallabies have scored in excess of 30 points in all but one of their last six visits to Italy. The exception was in 2006 where John Connolly's side escaped with a 25-18 win at Rome after having trailed 13-15 at halftime.
"They got back on the right road last weekend. We are expecting a physical game, with high intensity rugby. We understand if we're not at 100 per cent, if we slack off in defence or can't hold the ball, the Wallabies are going to make you pay." - Italy fullback Luke McLean
"It has been a notable feature of recent performances that the Italians are looking to play with a bit more width and use the ball more, expanding on their usual strength in the physical exchanges." - Australia coach Robbie Deans
Prediction: Australia should make it two from two but they will be challenged by the Italians in the scrum
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