Preview: Italy v Fiji

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:49
Large sergio parisse italy animat Large martin castrogiovanni italy

Italian coach Jacques Brunel is hoping a selection shake-up will revive his team's fortunes in the second of their November Tests, against Fiji on Saturday.

Italian coach Jacques Brunel is hoping a selection shake-up will revive his team's fortunes in the second of their November Tests, against Fiji on Saturday.

Brunel made several changes from the starting XV that suffered heavy defeat to Australia last week.

Italy began their three-test November series hoping to build on a strong Six Nations performance earlier this year, having come close to stunning Australia in a 19-22 defeat this time last year.

But despite taking an early 10-0 lead, the Azzurri trailed 10-19 by half-time and were reduced to virtual bystanders after half-time when the Wallabies touched down at regular intervals to finish 50-20 ahead.

Brunel said Italy's morale had suffered a blow and expects amends to be made ahead of their final test, a week on Saturday against Argentina at Rome's Olympic Stadium.

"Against Australia last Saturday the team didn't play to its full potential, and this is certainly one of the reasons we've made so many changes," said the Frenchman.

"But we also want to use these games to give a chance to the players who have been selected.

"Morale is obviously not high after defeat to the Wallabies but it's clear we expect a different attitude and approach against Fiji, especially with regards to our defence."

Captain and No.8 Sergio Parisse and prop Martin Castrogiovanni are set to make their 100th appearances for Italy in Cremona, but the veterans are among only seven players to retain their starting place.

Australian-born Luke McLean, an early try-scorer for Italy last week when the hosts suffered a morale-sapping 50-20 reverse, will start at fullback again but Brunel has reshuffled the centres and the wings.

Giovambattista Venditti comes in at right wing at the expense of Tommaso Benevenuti, with Gonzalo Canale taking over at outside centre for Luca Morisi, who moves to inside centre.

Tommaso Iannone, who came off the bench in the second half against the Wallabies in Turin, starts on the left wing in place of Leonardo Sarto.

Luciano Orquera replaces Alberto Di Bernardo at flyhalf after the latter's ineffective display with the boot last weekend, with Edoardo Gori keeping his post at scrum half.

In the back row Brunel has opted for experience.

While Parisse will look to make his 100th cap a memorable one, the skipper will be flanked by Mauro Bergamasco at openside and Alessandro Zanni at blindside, the latter making his 54th consecutive appearance for the Azzurri.

In the second row, Brunel has made two changes, with Valerio Bernabo and Quintin Geldenhuys replacing Marco Bortolami and Antonio Pavanello respectively in a bid to give Italy more ball possession.

The only change to the front row is the return of hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, with Davide Giazzon dropping to the bench. He will be flanked by props Michele Rizzo and Castrogiovanni.

Italy will be meeting Fiji for the ninth time, the sides each having won four of their previous eight encounters.

The Azzurri prevailed 24-16 on their last outing in Modena in 2010.

Fiji coach Inoke Male announced his starting XV on Thursday having seen his side run in six tries in a 36-13 victory away to Portugal last weekend.

Players to watch:

For Italy: Given that both will play in their 100th Tests, it will be a special day for Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni - who have so often been the team's most consistent performers in recent years. Luke McLean at fullback and Luciano Orquera at flyhalf will also be in the spotlight.

For Fiji: Their European-based players will always be under more pressure to perform - which means Gloucester flank Akapusi Qera, who also captains the side, Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers), as well as the Glasgow Warriors pair of Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Niko Matawalu will be the men in the spotlight.

Head to head: Italy pride themselves on their set pieces, which is not exactly Fiji's forte. It means a lot will hinge on the battle between the tight forwards - Valerio Bernabo and Quintin Geldenhuys in the Italian second row against Fijian counterparts Wame Lewaravu and Apisai Naikatini, as well as the respective front rows of Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Michele Rizzo (Italy) against Setefano Somoca, Viliame Veikoso and Jereremaia Yanuyanutawa (Fiji).

Previous results:
2010: Italy won 24-16, Modena
2006: Fiji won 29-18, Lautoka
2005: Italy won 23-8, Monza
2001: Italy won 66-10, Treviso
2000: Fiji won 43-9, Suva
1999: Fiji won 50-32, L'Aquila
1987: Italy won 18-15, Dunedin (World Cup pool match)

Predition: The Fijian pack is unlikely to pose the same threat Australia did last week, while them Pacific islanders may be a touch underdone as well. You can expect an Italian win - by about 15 points.


Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Giovambattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Valerio Bernabo, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Nemani Nadolo, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Serenaia Bai, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera (captain), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotukula, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Apisai Naikatini, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jereremaia Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Seremaia Namaralevu, 17 Campese Ma'afu, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Sisa Koyamaibole, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Waisea Luveniyali, 23 Adriu Delai.

Date: Saturday, November 16
Venue: Stadio Zini, Cremona
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT, 03.00, Sunday, November 17 Fiji time)
Expected weather: Thursday and Friday's rain will clear up to a bright day, but underfoot may remain damp. High of 14°c and a low of 7°c
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Joaquin Montes (Uruguay)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

AFP & rugby365