Italy captain returns for Boks battle
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Talismanic No.8 Sergio Parisse will become rugby union’s second most capped player when he skippers Italy in their crunch Pool B match against South Africa on Friday.
Parisse will win his 142nd cap, overtaking Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, with New Zealand’s Richie McCaw atop the overall list with 149 Test appearances.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea retained 12 of the team that beat Canada 48-7, handing starting spots to Parisse, Tito Tebaldi and Luca Morisi.
Parisse lines up for the do-or-die match in Shizuoka with Gloucester’s Jake Polledri and South African-born Abraham Steyn in a competitive backrow.
Dean Budd, who captained the Italians to a 48-7 win over Canada last time out, locks down with David Sisi, Andrea Lovotti and Simone Ferrari propping down either side of Luca Bigi.
Tito Tebaldi faces the daunting task of keeping livewire Faf de Klerk quiet at scrumhalf, with Tommaso Allan given the task of dictating play at number 10.
Jayden Hayward and Luca Morisi are in midfield, with Michele Campagnaro and Tommaso Benvenuti on the wings and Matteo Minozzi at fullback.
Italy kicked off their campaign with an unconvincing 47-22 win over minnows Namibia, meaning they have a maximum 10 points after their opening two games, with the All Blacks awaiting them after the South Africa game.
“We’ve been looking at what’s the best group we could have,” said O’Shea.
“We’ve specifically planned to play against South Africa and tinkered at various different things.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be physical, and we’ve picked players who can interchange, no matter what numbers are on their backs.”
Like the Springboks, O’Shea plumped for a six-two forwards-backs split on the bench in preparation for what is likely to be a tough clash upfront.
“We did discuss going 8-0 on bench because of what promises to be a forwards battle, but we’ll leave that for another day!” the former Ireland fullback joked.
“You’ve lost the game before you’ve even started if you can’t front up physically.
“It’s a war, South Africa, nothing else. I’m glad I’m off the pitch and not on against them.”
There had been some discussion over whether Parisse might be benched for the game given Steyn’s eye-catching performance from No 8 against Canada.
But O’Shea was quick to dispel such rumours.
“We talk the whole time about selection,” he acknowledged.
“But Sergio is one of the greatest players under the high ball and his role this weekend will be more fundamental than normal, fielding kicks and helping out our back three.
“He’s outstanding and we also have great strength and depth in our backrow, even with players we’ve left at home.”
O’Shea added: “You need heart and courage to play South Africa and I know our team’s got them in spadefuls.
“All the pressure is on South Africa,” who lost their opener 13-23 to New Zealand before a second-string side beat Namibia 57-3.
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Michele Campagnaro, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captaian), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Dean Budd, 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Callum Braley,23 Carlo Canna
Date: Friday, October 4
Venue: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture
Kick-off: 18.45 (11.45 SA and Italian time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
— Italrugby (@Federugby) October 1, 2019