Italy v Romania preview: Oaks to beat Azzurri to third place
- Azzurri coach Jacques Brunel makes just two changes from side that almost overcame Ireland
- Romania also makes two alterations from team that came from behind to beat Canada
- Winner of the match will finish third in Pool D, ensuring qualification for Japan in 2019
After a rallying display which almost snatched a famous result against Ireland, Italy again face a must-win match to finish third without their talismanic Captain Sergio Parisse. Following a huge victory over Canada, Romania carry the momentum heading into this winner takes all clash.
Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse lasted just 65 minutes against Ireland, but his presence was keenly felt as Italy came agonizingly close to snatching a result against the Six Nations champions.
Italy are not the same team without him, as was evidenced by their narrow laboured win over Canada. With third place and qualification for the next World Cup in the balance, the pressure is on the tier one side in this match.
Romania are hampered by the fact that they have a four day turnaround from their energy sapping win over Canada, but they will have gained huge confidence from that result.
The Oaks fought back from 15-0 down to complete the biggest comeback in Rugby World Cup history, and they will come all guns blazing to beat Italy to third place.
Azzurri coach Jacques Brunel has made just two alterations to the side that ran Ireland close a week ago.
The forced change of Parisse sees the captain drop out of the squad, and his cameo against the men in green was likely his last World Cup appearance.
Alessandro Zanni replaces him at Number eight, whilst the captaincy honours fall to second row Quintin Geldenhuys for the fourth time in his Italy career.
Tomasso Benvenuti is the other change in place of Gonzalo Garcia at inside centre, who lasted just three minutes against the Irish.
Romania have likewise made just two changes from the side that completed that remarkable comeback against Canada.
Coach Lynn Howells has also been forced to make a change at Number eight, with Daniel Carpo replacing suspended captain Mihai Macovei.
Florin Surugiu is swapped at scrum-half for Valentin Calafeteanu, while blindside flanker Valentin Ursache skippers the side for just the second time.
Players to watch
This game will likely be won or lost at the scrum. With Italy giving up 41kg in terms of pack weight, it is vital that they time their shoves just right to try and negate Romania’s strength. With first choice hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini out injured along with veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni, pressure will be on young hooker Manici’s shoulders, quite literally. The Zebre front row needs to make his presence felt early and ensure that his pack get on the right side of referee Romain Poite.
While the main battle will be contested at the set piece, there is a good chance that the result itself will be determined by accuracy from the tee. Florin Vlaicu was the hero against Canada, nailing two conversions and one penalty which allowed Romania snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The dependable centre will be vital to a second consecutive World Cup win that would see them qualify for 2019.
Historically Italy have the edge in this tie, and the tier one side ought to have enough quality to see of a team ranked four places below them in the world standings. Their head to head record is perhaps a bit closer than the Azzurri would like however, with the Six Nations side boasting 22 wins to 16, with three meetings ending all square. The last time these two met was at the 2007 World Cup, and Italy only just narroly beat them 24-18 in a thrilling encounter. It was an even more nerve shredding experience for the Italians as their previous encounter was a 23-24 defeat in Bucharest.
The Oaks have had a quick turnaround from the huge effort against Canada, but with history beckoning for them and the wind in their sails, they may just have enough to cause one final upset here. Statistically, Romania have outscored them on aggregate with 610 points to 577, and by 82 tries to 61. Italy edge them out on the penalty count, and that is where Romania will need to be careful, as a yellow card against Canada almost proved costly.
Romania by 1
Italy: 15. Luke McLean, 14. Leonardo Sarto, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Tommaso Benvenuti, 11. Giovanbattista Venditti, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Edoardo Gori, 8. Alessandro Zanni, 7. Simone Favaro, 6. Francesco Minto, 5. Josh Furno, 4. Quintin Geldenhuys, 3. Lorenzo Cittadini, 2. Andrea Manici, 1. Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16. Davide Giazzon, 17. Alberto De Marchi, 18. Dario Chistolini, 19. Valerio Bernabò, 20. Samuela Vunisa, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Carlo Canna,23. Enrico Bacchin
Romania: 15. Catalin Fercu, 14. Madalin Lemnaru, 13. Paula Kinikinilau, 12. Florin Vlaicu, 11. Ionut Botezatu, 10. Michael Wiringi, 9. Valentin Calafeteanu, 8. Daniel Carpo, 7. Viorel Lucaci, 6. Valentin Ursache, 5. Johannes van Heerden, 4. Valentin Poparlan, 3. Paulica Ion, 2. Otar Turashvili, 1. Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16. Andrei Radoi, 17. Andrei Ursache, 18. Horatiu Pungea, 19. Marius Antonescu, 20. Stelian Burcea, 21. Tudorel Bratu, 22. Adrian Apostol, 23. Csaba Gal
Date: Sunday, October 11
Venue: Sandy Park, Exeter
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy, Mathieu Raynal
Television match official: Ben Skeen