Australia out to prove RWC credentials
September 7, 2011
Samo will hope to continue his impressive form against Nick Mallett's Italy © Getty Images
Following their win over World Cup favourites New Zealand, all eyes will be on Australia to see if they can gate crash the Kiwis' party.
And with Nick Mallett's Italy side lying in wait, Robbie Deans' forwards will have to be on their game against a formidable Azzurri pack. Deans has opted for continuity over change, naming the same side which despatched the Kiwis so ably in the Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane. Australia have fared well in the previous World Cups having taken the honours in 1991 and 1999 but they fell from the 2007 tournament at the quarter-finals stages to England.
However, with Kiwi Deans at the helm, few know better what it takes to win in New Zealand than the former Crusaders head coach. For Mallett, the tournament will be his swansong as coach. Despite finishing last in the 2011 Six Nations, Mallet's charges impressed and they were the victors in one of the sport's most famous upsets when they despatched France in Rome. With the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parisse lying in wait for Deans' team, there will be no room for complacency.
Australia - Player to Watch: Will Genia was absolutely outstanding against the Kiwis in the Tri-Nations finale and he will look to assert himself as the world's premier scrum-half in the forthcoming tournament.
Australia - Team News: Deans has kept the same line-up as the one which defeated the All Blacks with James O'Connor having to be content with a spot on the bench. Kurtley Beale heads the team at fullback while Digby Ioane and Adam Ashley-Cooper will hope to get their fair share of ball on the wings. Anthony Faingaa takes the inside centre berth alongside Pat McCabe with Genia and the mercurial Quade Cooper lining up in the half-backs. Samo anchors the Wallabies scrum at No.8 with the vast experience of Rocky Elsom and the tenacity of David Pocock anchoring the back-row. Dan Vickerman and captain James Horwill start in the second-row while Ben Alexander, Sekope Kepu and Stephen Moore take the front-row spots.
Italy - Player to Watch: Fullback Andrea Masi was in superb form for Italy during the Six Nations, wining the player of the tournament gong despite Italy slumping to another wooden spoon. Italy will be relying on Masi to add some much needed thrust in the backline.
Italy - Team News: Blindside flanker Alessandro Zanni and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini return to the starting XV in place of Paul Derbyshire and Fabio Ongaro in the only changes to the side that lost to Scotland in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match. Luke McLean is added to the bench in place of Joshua Furno in order to offer greater cover for the backs.
Key Battle: Radike Samo will have his hands full with Italy's talismanic No.8 Sergio Parisse. The vastly experienced Stade Francais' back-row is the heartbeat of everything Italy do well and with Samo in rampaging form following their Tri-Nations triumph, expect fireworks at the back of the scrum.
Trivia: Michael Lynagh's 23 points in Australia's 55-6 win over Italy is the highest personal tally between the two sides.
Stats: Italy have never beaten the Australians but this is the first time the pair have met in the World Cup.
Quote Unquote: "We're approaching this Sunday as our last game essentially. The tournament all revolves around the next game. We've got to hit the ground running, because we're going in at the deep end. When you look at our pool, our first two opponents (Italy and Ireland) are ones we've had challenges with." - Australia boss Robbie Deans is hoping for a strong start from his side
"For us it is a great honor to know that they will field their best team, it's a sign of great respect. The Wallabies now have a crazy-good team; they've have just won the Tri-Nations and have many quality young players. " - Italy scrum-half Pablo Canavosio outlines the challenge facing the Azzurri
Prediction: In many ways, Australia's shock defeat at home to Samoa just before the start of the Tri-Nations was a blessing in disguise. Certainly, they are unlikely to make the mistake of underestimating a second-tier nation again, which will stand them in good stead this weekend against Italy. The Azzurri will really put it to the Wallabies up front, particularly in the set-piece, but, as ever, they just do not have the half-backs to trouble the big boys. The confident Aussies to open with a bruising but comprehensive win.
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