PREVIEW: Italy v Canada
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: Italy will be targeting a better performance when they face Canada in their second Pool B match in Fukuoka on Thursday.
Italy started their campaign with a scrappy 47-22 win over Namibia on Sunday and even head coach Conor O’Shea admitted after the match: “We’ll have to move on from that pretty quickly. It wasn’t very pretty. There’s too many errors in it.”
Conditions were tricky at the Hanazono Stadium, with the weather ranging from bright sunshine to torrential rain as the players were unlucky enough to catch the very edge of a typhoon swirling to Japan’s west.
Italy, the Six Nations wooden-spooners, should have too much firepower for Canada who are ranked 22, the second-lowest side at the Rugby World Cup after Namibia.
Italy are aiming to make it into the quarterfinals for the first time in their history and are targeting the October 4 clash against heavyweights South Africa as their chance to climb out of the pool.
Canada meanwhile named 11 of the team that started in their last warm-up game against the USA.
Canada have been to every edition of the World Cup, reaching the quarterfinals in 1991 with narrow wins over Fiji and Romania.
Once the undisputed powerhouse of North American rugby, Canada’s fortunes have been on a downward spiral over the past decade and they only scraped into this year’s event via the repechage.
They have virtually no chance of repeating their 1991 heroics, as they are drawn in the same pool as southern hemisphere giants South Africa and New Zealand.
“We got a look at Italy in their match against Namibia and we’re excited to get on the pitch and have a crack at them,” said Canada head coach Kingsley Jones.
The Canadian boys serving up some Japanese looks with STYLE 😎💁♂️
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) September 23, 2019
The squad features a fair mix of experience and youth, with the likes of veterans DTH van der Merwe and Ciaran Hearn taking the pitch in their fourth and third World respectively. This will be the first World for 10 players in Thursday’s line-up.
Jones will be without the services of some of his regulars for Thursday’s match, giving an opportunity to up-and-comers Josh Larsen and Conor Keys.
“Unfortunate for Taylor Paris and Evan Olmstead, they’ve missed out on selection through slight low body injuries,” commented Jones. “Nothing that’s going to keep them out long term but they’re not quite ready for this one. Overall we’re pleased with the combinations we have.”
Jones and the Canadian squad are ready to take every challenge head-on, facing off next against reigning champions New Zealand and South Africa before ending pool play against Namibia.
“It’s a tough pool we’re facing but we’ve worked a long while towards this and this first one is going to be a huge game for us.” added Jones.
Players to watch:
For Italy: Centre Michele Campagnaro will be a constant threat when he gets the ball in the midfield, while flyhalf Tommaso Allan will look to dictate play in what should be a physical encounter. Italy also have an exciting-looking back row with plenty of dynamism in the form of Braam Steyn, Jake Polledri and Sebastian Negri.
For Canada: Wing DTH Van Der Merwe is one of the best in the business in his position with his lethal finishing. There will be a spotlight on flyhalf Peter Nelson won his first cap for Canada in July. Nelson’s rise through the Canada ranks is all the more remarkable given he is a former player for Ireland’s Under-18 and Under-20 sides. Captain Tyler Ardron is the big name in the pack.
Head to head: Tommaso Benvenuti and DTH Van Der Merwe should both have plenty of fun marking each other out wide. The battle between the two flyhalves is also an intriguing one with the experienced Tommaso Allan up against Peter Nelson.
2016: Italy won 20-18, Toronto
2015: Italy won 23-18, Leeds (World Cup Pool match)
2012: Italy won 25-15, Toronto
2006: Italy won 41-6, Fontanafredda
2004: Italy won 51-6, L’Aquila
2003: Italy won 19-14, Canberra (World Cup Pool match)
2000: Canada won 22-17, Rovigo
Prediction: Italy are the favourites and Canada have been in poor form recently. Italy will take this one by 15 points.
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Giulio Bisegni, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Mattia Bellini.
Canada: 15 Patrick Parfrey, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben Lesage, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 DTH Van Der Merwe, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Gordon McRorie, 8 Tyler Ardron (captain), 7 Lucas Rumball, 6 Michael Sheppard, 5 Josh Larsen, 4 Conor Keys, 3 Matt Tierney, 2 Eric Howard, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Djustice Duru-Sears, 18 Jake Ilnicki, 19 Luke Campbell, 20 Matt Heaton, 21 Jamie Mackenzie, 22 Ciaran Hearn, 23 Andrew Coe.
Date: Thursday, September 26
Venue: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka City
Kick-off: 16.45 (03.45 Eastern Canadian time; 07.45 GMT; 09.45 Italy time)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Additional sources: AFP & @RugbyCanada