WORLD RANKING: 15
SUMMED UP IN THREE WORDS: Improving, Youthful, Troops
THE HEAD COACH: French-born Jacques Brunel began coaching immediately after he hung up his boots in 1988. He then 24-years later, which included a six-year spell as France’s assistant head coach between 2001 and 2007, took over the Azzurri as the successor to Nick Mallet in 2011.
FAMILIAR FACES: There inspirational Number Eight Sergio Parrise is the face of Italian rugby having made 112 Caps for the Azzurri since making his debut in 2002. Other recognizable faces would be Martin Castrogiovanni and Mauro Bergamasco, who also have both made over a century of International Test Caps.
KEY PLAYER: Italy centre Luca Morisi is a player who is capable of excellent individual skill. The 24-year old is probably the Azzurri’s best attacking weapon and impressed particularly with his hard running in the midfield in recent internationals.
YOUNG GUN: Since making his International bow Michele Campagnaro has gone on to make 14 Test Caps, scoring four tries. The 22-year old should be an exciting signing for his new club Exeter Chiefs, who he will join up with following the World Cup.
STYLE: They play with a dominant forward line that can match up to most countries in the scrum. However, they lack a decent fly-half to bring their backs into the game, which seems to have been an issue with them forever.
BEST RWC MOMENT: Their first ever World Cup triumph was possibly their finest moment as they edged past Fiji 18-15 in Dunedin at the inaugural competition in 1987.
WORST RWC MOMENT: Italy’s 101-3 mauling from New Zealand at the World Cup in 1999 was probably the Azzurri’s lowest point. The scoreline was harsh, but conceding 14 tries was a heartbreak for the Italy fans as they bowed out at the Pool stage having lost all three games.
COMMENTATOR’S GO-TO FACT: The average Italian consumes 25 kilograms of pasta a year.
EXPECTATIONS: With Ireland and France in their Pool it will be tough for the Azzurri to reach the knockout rounds. Fans will expect Italy nevertheless to finish third and automatically qualify for the next World Cup in 2019.
VIEW FROM THE STANDS: Ricardo, 24, Naples
- What do you make of this current crop of Italy players? We have some exciting young talent combined with some experienced players but this year we have a very tough Pool.
- Do you think they could get through the Pool? Possibly, one big performance against France and you never know. We must finish at least third in the Pool.
- Who do you think will win the tournament? The All Blacks, they are simply magnificent.
RUCK VERDICT: Italy should secure automatic qualification for the 2019 tournament by finishing third in their Pool. It would take an almighty effort from the Azzurri to knock out either France or Ireland, especially after their successive defeats to Scotland in the run-up to the tournament.
19/09/2015: France vs. Italy, Twickenham (London). Kick off 20:00
04/10/2015: Ireland vs. Italy, Olympic Stadium (London). Kick off 16:45
26/10/2015: Italy vs. Canada, Elland Road (Leeds). Kick off 14:30
11/10/2015: Italy vs. Romania, Sandy Park (Exeter). Kick off 14:30
Total travelling between games: 492 miles
Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici, Valerio Barnabo, Joshua Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (Captain), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni.
Backs: Carlo Canna, Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi, Tommaso Allan, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Angelo Esposito, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti.