Preview: Italy v Fiji
Preview: Italy v FijiSHARE
Italy’s South African-born lock Carlo Del Fava believes the Azzurri must maintain their strong defensive showings in Test matches this month if they are to beat Fiji in Modena on Saturday.
Italy have conceded only three tries in their two Test matches against Argentina and Australia, and against the exuberant Pacific Islanders Del Fava is expecting another test of their tackling.
“Last Saturday in Florence against Australia our front five made a lot of tackles,” he said.
“We have a lot of confidence in our defence and it is from our defensive organisation that we have to lay the foundations to beat Fiji.
“They’re quick with a lot of power in their legs. They’re difficult to stop but we have to respect our gameplan and be disciplined both in defence and attack.
“This is our third and final year-end Test, there’s a lot of attention on our pack and we must maintain the level of the last two Tests up front and use that as a solid platform for our attacks.”
Italy lost both their previous Tests, 16-22 against the Pumas and 14-32 to the Wallabies, but they were competitive throughout both matches and were by no means an easy touch.
In fact the score against Australia was exaggerated by a last second converted try when the ball popped out of an Italy scrum giving Aussie captain Rocky Elsom a gift.
Fiji’s year-end outings have gone marginally better as although they lost 12-34 to France in Paris, they then held Wales to a 16-all draw in Cardiff.
What may have surprised many people about that game is that Fiji kept things relatively tight and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni believes that is something the flamboyant Islanders are developing.
“They’ve played some very good games in November and it won’t be easy for us,” he said.
“It will be a battle, like us Fiji always give it everything physically.
“They’re better than they were because now they don’t just run the ball straight away, they go with the forwards first and then look to spread it.”
Fiji have made six changes for this game while Italy’s South African coach Nick Mallett made just three.
The match is also an important one in terms of the world rankings with Fiji (10th) narrowly ahead of Italy (12th).
Players to watch:
For Italy: Captain Sergio Parisse always brings a lot of energy and his leadership is obviously vital. However, it is the halfbacks – No.10 Luciano Orquera and No.9 Edoardo Gori – that hold the key to the home team’s success. Then there is the scrumming of veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who has been stung by criticism from the Australian camp. He will have a point to prove.
For Fiji: The exciting midfield combination of Albert Vulivuli and Gabirieli Lovobalavu will no doubt test the Italian defence, while flyhalf Seremaia Bai will also have an important role to play.
Head to head: You simply can’t look past the scrums – the Italian powerhouse combination of Martin Castrogiovanni, Fabio Ongaro and Salvatore Perugini against Fiji’s Deacon Manu, Talemaitoga Taupati and Campese Ma’afu. This is going to be an interesting – and key – contest. For the rest it is mainly the Fijian runners against Italian defenders.
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 50-32, L’Aquila
1987: Italy won 18-15, Dunedin (World Cup pool match)
rugby365.com Prediction: The Fijians will hope the conditions do not deteriorate too early. If the rain arrives – before or during the game – the Italian pack will hold the upperhand. This a game of brute strength against flair. We feel the Italian pack will strangle the life out of the Pacific Islanders and Italy will win by 10 to 15 points.
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Andrea Masi, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (Captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys, 4 Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Santiago Dellape, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Pablo Canavosio, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Fiji: 15 Norman Ligairi, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Gabirieli Lovobalavu, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Seremaia Bai, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Semisi Naevo, 5 Jone Qovu, 4 Wame Lewaravu, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Talemaitoga Taupati, 1 Campese Ma’afu,
Replacements: 16 Vilame Veikoso, 17 Vesi Rarawa, 18 Sekonaia Kalou, 19 Jimilai Naikadawa, 20 Seveci Taka, 21 Seru Rabeni, 22 Taniela Rawaqa.
Date: Saturday, November 27
Venue: Stadio Braglia, Modena
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Although it is meant to be mostly a clear day and the snow blanket that is sweeping over Europe is not expected to arrive in Italy before Sunday, the clouds start rolling in before kick-off and there is a chance of showers midway through the match. The predicted high for the day is 3°C and by kick-off it will be about 2°C.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France), James Jones (Wales)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
AFP & rugby365.com