RWC: Match preview: Ireland – Italy

POOL C – IRELAND vs ITALY
Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Sunday 2nd Oct 8:30pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 19, Italy 16, Italy 3
Last meeting: Ireland 13 beat Italy 11 in Rome 2011
Last meeting at a World Cup: First meeting

Team news: Ireland have made two changes to the side that started in the famous victory over Australia two weeks ago, but a lot of changes to the side that lined up against Russia in their last outing. A new half pairing see Conor Murray and Ronan O’Gara take the reigns in this important clash. Italy has named a the same side was to face USA, the late withdrawal of Andrea Masi saw Luke McLean start the match, but Masi has regained his place meaning there are no real changes to the side.

Form: Ireland really got into gear against Russia, running out 50 point winners in a one-sided affair. This off the victory over Australia shows that the Irish are out of their funk and are hitting some form. This is an ominous sign for the Azzurri who have not been in form themselves after struggling to put USA away in what should have been a comfortable victory for the Six Nations team. The cover defence for the Americans was top class, but the Italians seemed to be going through the motions, doing the same against the Irish will see them out of the World Cup.

Prediction: Ireland have won their three previous matches at this World Cup, but are still not guaranteed a Quarter-final place. The Irish simply need to win this match and they are through, well that is the mind set they should be going into the game with. The Azzurri need to win and deny Ireland a bonus point, or win, score a four try bonus point themselves and deny Ireland two bonus points. Ireland have the better head-to-head record of the two, and we I am backing Ireland to secure a place in the finals.
Ireland by 13

Teams:
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera , 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Cornelius van Zyl, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea lo Cicero, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Edoardo Gori, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Luke McLean.

By Alex Barlow-Smith