Wallabies look to bounce back
November 19, 2010
Can Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom inspire a return to winning ways? © Getty Images
Australia will look to re-build their reputation as a major force in world rugby against Italy at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence on Saturday.
The Wallabies were swept aside by England at Twickenham less than a week ago and there was further woe in midweek when their second string became Munster's latest famous scalp. As a result a tour that began so strongly with victories over the All Blacks, Wales and Leicester is in danger of imploding.
Given their recent lack of form, Robbie Deans' side will no doubt welcome the chance to get their tour back on track against the Azzurri rather than one of Europe's heavyweights but they know from their last visit to the country in 2008 that they will not get everything their own way. Italy warmed up for this clash with a defeat at the hands of Argentina that suggested there is also plenty of room for improvement on their side too.
Italy - Player to Watch: Italy boss Nick Mallett has handed a surprise debut to 20-year-old scrum-half Edoardo Gori, who will be hoping his pack have one of their better days at the office to ensure he has time to think.
Italy - Team News: Debutant Gori starts in tandem with Brive fly-half Luciano Orquera following an injury to Australian-born playmaker Craig Gower while Alberto Sgarbi is called into the midfield. Hooker Fabio Ongaro also replaces Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero is in at loose-head for Salvatore Perugini and flanker Paul Derbyshire is named in the back-row ahead of Roberto Barbieri.
Australia - Player to Watch: Fly-half Quade Cooper was singled out for criticism in the wake of the loss to England and was uncharacteristically quiet at Twickenham. Expect him to explode back into life in Florence.
Australia - Team News: Matt Giteau and Benn Robinson have been axed with midweek skipper Berrick Barnes drafted in at No.12 and promising Reds prop James Slipper taking over Robinson's loose-head berth. Brumbies lock Mark Chisholm drops out of the starting XV in favour of Reds youngster Rob Simmons, who is set to make his full debut. Scrum-half Will Genia also misses out due to a rib injury, meaning that Luke Burgess partners Cooper at halfback. Lachie Turner starts on the wing after James O'Connor returned to Australia to attend a funeral.
Key Battle: The much-anticipated forward battle never materialised at Twickenham last weekend but Italy will struggle to match England for dynamism so expect a fierce battle at scrum time and in the loose. Italy will hope to shackle Australia's back division but they can only do that if they secure the bulk of possession.
Trivia: Wallabies playmaker Cooper will have fond memories of playing Italy, having scored his first Test try on debut against the Azzurri in 2008.
Stats: The Wallabies may miss the presence of Giteau and O'Connor, with the duo having notched a total of five tries against their hosts previously in their career.
"I have to start strongly from the first minute and earn the trust of my teammates. Then hopefully the rest will follow." - Italy debutant Edoardo Gori looks forward to his Test bow
"I had a few of the boys over helping out, that's all you can do. The more repetition and the more blokes you tackle, the better you get." - Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper responds to criticism by knuckling down in training
Prediction: The Wallabies may be reeling from back-to-back defeats but they still boast too much class for an Italian side that has plenty of forward grunt but lacks the backline flair to pose a real threat.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.