Azzuri battling form and history
September 28, 2011
Denis Hickie scored four tries for Ireland against Italy in 2003 © Getty Images
Italy will head into Sunday's Pool C shoot-out with Ireland as underdogs - and for good reason.
Not only did Ireland beat pool favourites Australia in the second round of matches, but they have a track record of success against the Azzuri. In 19 internationals Ireland have won 16 and lost just three. In fact, despite some close encounters in recent years, Ireland have not lost to Italy for 14 years and have a 15-match winning streak against their Six Nations rivals. Italy's three victories against the Irish came within their first four meetings. After Ireland won the first match-up between the sides at Lansdowne Road in 1988, the Azzuri gained revenge with wins in Treviso, Bologna and Dublin.
But since then the Irish have dominated. The high-point of Irish dominance came in August 2003 when Ireland ran in eight tries, including four from winger Denis Hickie, to beat Italy 61-6 in Limerick.
Despite regularly coming up against each other in the Six Nations, Sunday's showdown in Pool C will be the first time the two nations have met in a Rugby World Cup. The last meeting between the two sides came in Rome in February when a 77th minute drop goal from fly-half Ronan O'Gara, who came on as a second-half substitute, snatched a 13-11 victory for Ireland.
Ireland v Italy
All-time record:Played: 19 Ireland won 16, Italy won 3
Biggest winning margin: Ire: 55 (61-6, Limerick, 2003) Ita: 15 (37-22 Bologna 1997)
Highest score: Ire: 61 (61-6, Limerick, 2003) Ita: 37 (37-22 Bologna 1997 and 37-29 Dublin 1997)
Most tries: Ire: 8 (61-6, Limerick, 2003) Ita: 4 (37-29 Dublin 1997)
Most points (individual): Ire: 164 Ronan O'Gara; Ita: 96 Diego Dominguez
Most tries (individual): Ire: 8 Denis Hickie; Ita: Paolo Vaccari
Most points in a Test: Ire: 26 David Humphreys (61-6, Limerick, 2003); Ita: 22 Diego Dominguez (37-22 Bologna 1997)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra