Preview: Italy v Namibia
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: It would be a huge surprise if either of these teams went on to the quarterfinals.
Hovering above them are New Zealand and South Africa, whom they are not going to beat, barring a miracle that could start the process of canonisation for the whole Italian team.
They are two teams happy to be at the World Cup and likely to make the most of it. Italy, being a Six Nations team, will be used to the glamour of it all but for the Namibians it will be a wonderland, wide-eyed in an experience far beyond their ken.
It’s a long, long way from Windhoek to Tokyo, a long way from Afrikaans to Japanese, a long way from biltong to sushi. It will be unlike the other World Cups they have been to.
Italy are ranked 14th in the world, Namibia 23rd, the lowest ranked team at the World Cup, getting there as the African qualifiers ahead of the likes of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire. Italy are bolstered by several stranieri – foreign-born players whereas all of the Namibians are home grown.
There is a huge gap in experience. Italy play against England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France while Namibia play against Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Italy may have lost all of their matches against this opposition and been slain recently by England in a warm-up game but that is top quality opposition for a warm-up while Namibia scraped home against the Southern Kings, the bottom side in the PRO14.
Italy have been to all World Cups so far and have won 11 of their 28 matches, though they have not yet advanced beyond the pool stage. Namibia, who have been to six World Cups, have yet to win a match.
Players to Watch
For Italy: Captain, Sergio Parisse may be in the twilight of his career but he has been one of the great players of world rugby, a skilled leader. It will be his fifth World Cup. Then there are the Italian backs who have the speed to create excitement. They have an excellent scrumhalf in Tito Tebaldi, and Luca Morisi is a creative inside centre.
For Namibia: Unfortunately they are without captain Johan Deysel, who is a strong threat at centre, and veterans in flank Rohan Kitshoff and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, may be most likely to catch the eye. And if he gets off the bench scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies will be welcomed to his fourth World Cup.
Head to Head
Namibia’s best hope is to match Italy at forward but they may not even manage there against players used to competing with stronger opposition. When Italy played Russia, whose strength is in the forwards, Italy scored over 80 points as they brushed aside the Russian pack.
2001: Italy won 49-24, Windhoek
1991: Namibia won 33-19, Windhoek
1991: Namibia won 17-7, Windhoek
Prediction: One would expect Italy to win by a really big margin.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Matteo Minozzi
Namibia: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Chad Plato, 13 Justin Newman, 12 Darryl De La Harpe, 11 Jacobus Greyling, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Wian Conradie, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (captain), 4 PJ van Lill, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 André Rademeyer.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 AJ De Klerk, 18 Nelius Theron, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Max Katjijeko, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23 Lesley Klim
Date: Sunday, 22 September 2019
Kick-off: 14.45 (07.45 Italy time, 07.45 Namibia time, 05.45 GMT)
Venue: Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiosaka
Expected weather: Rain with a high of 28°C, droppiung slightly to 23°C and humidity of around 70%.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)