Preview: Italy labour to victory over Romania
September 12, 2007
Pierre Berbizier wants to see his Italy side show their true colours when they take on Romania in World Cup Pool C.
The Azzurri's campaign got off to the worst possible start when they were taken apart by a rampant New Zealand team in Marseille on Saturday.
They were 43-0 down after 28 minutes against the tournament favourites and only temporarily managed to stop the rot to prevent the All Blacks going into triple figures. The match ended 76-14 in favour of Graham Henry's men.
The shell-shocked Italians will find it much easier against Romania, who will be playing their first game of the 2007 competition.
But Berbizier's side will have taken a blow to their self-esteem and the French coach believes it is hard to assess where the land lies after the humiliation at the weekend.
"After the match against the All Blacks, it is very difficult to say Italy are favourites (against Romania),'' said the former Les Bleus scrum-half and coach.
"I just hope to see the Italian team playing at our best - without thinking of who are favourites or outsiders.
"Those are things you can't say before the match. I simply hope we play like we know we can.''
Berbizier has kept faith with nine of the 15 starters against the All Blacks, making four changes in the backs - one being positional - and three in the forwards.
That is more to do with the quick turnaround in matches rather than discontent regarding his players' performance on Saturday.
Paul Griffen and Ramiro Pez will form the new half-back pairing, with Alessandro Troncon and Roland de Marigny dropping to the bench.
Gonzalo Canale starts at centre instead of Andrea Masi, who moves to the wing as a replacement for the injured Marko Stanojevic (leg).
In the pack, prop Andrea Lo Cicero, hooker Carlo Festuccia and blind-side flanker Josh Sole come in.
"We have two games in four days,'' added Berbizier.
"It is very important to rotate our players to be able to deal with the situation. We made this decision according to this situation.
"It was important to give new strength to the team, to recover our freshness. Even more so, considering this is going to be a match in which we will have to really battle.
"We hope to find the best mix of power and a flowing game.''
Romania's game is based on forward power, as they usually struggle for creation in the backs.
Their entire side play for teams in the first or second divisions in France and they are a wily bunch up front.
But Italy should have enough about them to get their first win on the board, with Portugal to come next week.
"Now our true World Cup begins,'' said Festuccia, who replaces Fabio Ongaro.
"We are now playing the matches that are within our reach, and they start against Romania.
"We have a second chance, but at the same time it is our last one, so we have to be very focused.''
Romania head coach Daniel Santamans will be without Biarritz prop Petru Balan, who is sidelined with a knee injury, but he can still name a pack who are all into double figures in terms of caps.
Captain and lock Sorin Socol said: "Our forwards are strong but to play the match against Italy with just our forwards would be tough.
"We need to play a complete game with our backs and some good kicking. I hope people will have a new image of the Romanian team after the game.''
Romania, who are one of 12 teams to have played in every World Cup, won the last encounter against Italy 25-24 in Bucharest in June last year.
But the Azzurri have the better head-to-head record, having won 21 of the 40 games played between the two countries.
Italy: Bortolussi; Robertson, Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Masi, Pez, Griffen; Lo Cicero, Festuccia, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Bortolami (capt), Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Ghiraldini, Aguero, Bernabo, Vosawai, Troncon, Galon, De Marigny.
Romania: Dumitras; Fercu, Gal, Gontineac, Brezoianu; Dimofte, Sirbu; Toderasc, Tincu, Balan, Socol (capt), Petre, Corodeanu, Manta, Tonita.
Replacements: Mavrodin, Popescu, Ratiu, Tudori, Calafeteanu, Tofan, Vlad.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham