Match Preview: Australia vs Italy

North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, Sunday 11th Sep 3:30pm (NZT)

Head-to-head: Played 13, Australia 13, Italy 0
Last meeting: Australia 32 beat Italy 14 in Florence 2010
Last meeting at a World Cup: First meeting

Team news: Australia have benched the exciting James O’Connor for this pool C match. O’Connor failed to turn up to the teams official naming, and was dropped for the Tri-Nations decider last month. Italy have named a settled side for this match. Cornelius van Zyl has replaced veteran Marco Bortolami in the second row, it’s the only questionable decision from Nick Mallet.

Form: Australia enter the World Cup as the form team, coming off a Tri-Nations clinching win over the All Blacks in Brisbane. It was the first time the Australians have won the title in ten years. The All Blacks are favourites to take the Webb Ellis for most, but that win has seen the experts and fans start to reconsider. Italy have had a rather flat warm-up for the tournament, beating Japan by seven and going down to Scotland by 11 points. They have had one of their most famous wins this year mind you, beating France during the Six Nations in an historic day at the Stadio Flamino.

Prediction: Its been a World Cup where the less fancied teams have really stepped up. Italy has the quality to push the top teams, and they could do here against Australia. The Wallabies will start as firm favourites, as they should with the likes of Beale, Cooper, Genia and Pocock in the side. Anything but a comfortable win will be disappointing for Robbie Deans.
Australia by 18

Australia: 15.Kurtley Beale, 14.Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13.Anthony Fainga’a, 12.Pat McCabe, 11.Digby Ioane, 10.Quade Cooper, 9.Will Genia, 8.Radike Samo, 7.David Pocock, 6.Rocky Elsom, 5.James Horwill, (c) 4.Dan Vickerman, 3.Ben Alexander, 2.Stephen Moore. 1.Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16.Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17.James Slipper, 18.Rob Simmons, 19.Ben McCalman, 20.Scott Higginbotham, 21.Luke Burgess, 22.James O’Connor.

Italy: 15.Andrea Masi, 14.Tommaso Benvenuti, 13.Gonzalo Canale, 12.Gonzalo Garcia, 11.Mirco Bergamasco, 10.Luciano Orquera, 9.Fabio Semezato, 8.Sergio Parisse, 7.Robert Barberi, 6.Alessandro Zanni, 5.Conelius Can Zyl, 4.Carlp del Fava, 3.Martin Castrogiovanni, 2.Leonardo Ghiranldini. 1.Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16.Tommaso D’Apice, 17.Lorenzo Cittadini, 18.Marco Bortolami, 19.Paul Derbyshire, 20.Edoardo Gori, 21.Riccardo Bocchino, 22.Luke McLean.

By Alex Barlow-Smith