Italy v Canada preview: Azzurri to labour to victory over plucky Canadians
Italy’s best chance of escaping a tough Pool D looks to have escaped them already, as they needed to emerge from the France game with some points on the board. They remain within an outside chance, but five points here are vital if they are to stay in contention.
The headline is that the Azzurri are still without their inspirational captain Sergio Parisse. France were just too much for them to handle without one of the world’s best Number Eights, but they will need to get their act together if they are to beat the Canadians, and beat them well.
Italy has never advanced to the quarter-finals of a World Cup and are looking to make history in a tough Pool D.
Jacues Brunel has named four changes to the side that was dismissed by France. Despite fielding the most experienced front row in World Cup history in that game, props Martin Castrogiovanni and Matias Aguero had a torrid time against the French pack, and they are replaced by Michele Rizzo and Lorenzo Cittadini.
The centres have also been rejigged, with the tournament ending injury to Andrea Masi against Les Bleus seeing himself and Michele Campagnaro replaced by Gonzalo Garcia and Tomasso Benvenuti.
Veteran flanker Mauro Bergamasco has been named as a substitute and should he make an appearance, he will equal the record set by Brian Lima of playing at five different Rugby World Cups.
Canada must regroup after their 43 point margin of defeat against Ireland, which was behind only Namibia and Uruguay, who were beaten by 44 and 45 points respectively.
The Canucks Coach Kieran Crowley has made six alterations to his starting XV, starting with captain Tyler Ardron returning at Number Eight in place of Jamie Cudmore, who slips into the second row. Jebb Sinclair lines up next to him in place of Brett Beukeboom.
Nanyak Dala completes the altered scrum at blindside flanker in place of Kyle Gilmour.
Phil Mackenzie comes in for Jeff Hassler on the wing, while his brother Jamie replaces Gordon McRorie at scrum-half to mark their first World Cup match alongside one another. Conor Braid is in for Nick Blevins at inside centre.
Players to watch
Despite being just 24-years-young, Benvenuti is already appearing in his second Rugby World Cup. The outside centre has scored four tries in 31 appearances for the Azzurri, but his World Cup ratio is far more impressive. Four years ago Benvenuti made three appearances and scored two five pointers, both coming in the match against Russia, and he will be keen to add to his tally here.
The senior Mackenzie brother enters this tie in place of Jeff Hassler, and boasts the same Rugby World Cup strike record as Tomasso Benvenuti. Two tries in four World Cup appearances make for a fantastic battle between these two, as the Canucks look to spoil Italy’s quest for maximum points.
In seven meetings between these two nations, Italy have emerged victorious on five occasions, with Canada winning the other two. The Azzurri have won their last four encounters, but the last was rather closely run in Toronto, as they eventually came away with a 25-16 result. Historically, meetings between these two are either incredibly close, or won by Italy by a landslide. They know what they have to do, and their World Cup fate depends upon it. Canada will be up for the fight and looking to play spoiler, but Italy will finally claim their first win of the season.
Italy by 15.
Italy: 15 Luke McLean; 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Mauro Bergamasco, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Canada: 15 Matt Evans; 14 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Connor Braid, 11 DTH Van Der Merwe, 10 Nathan Hirayama, 9 Jamie Mackenzie, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 John Moonlight, 6 Nanyak Dala, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Hubert Buydens
Replacements: 16 Aaron Carpenter, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Kyle Gilmour, 21 Phil Mack, 22 Conor Trainor, 23 Harry Jones
Date: Saturday, September 26
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Mike Fraser
Television match official: George Ayoub