RWC: Match preview: Italy – Russia

Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Tuesday 20th Sep 7:30pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 3, Italy 3, Russia 0
Last meeting: Italy 67 beat Russia 7 in Moscow 2006
Last meeting at a World Cup: First meeting

Team news: Italy have made so many changes that it would be easier to name the players that have retained their place in the side. Coach Nick Mallet has made an amazing 12 changes for this match, with only Andrea Masi, Tommaso Benvenuti and captain Sergio Parisse remaining from the side that lost to Australia. Russia have made a few changes to the team that lost to USA in New Plymouth. Melbourne Rebels lock Adam Byrnes comes into the side to try and improve the Bears set-piece. Nikolai Nerush has also promoted Vladimir Botvinnikov, Victor Gresev and Andrey Kuzin from the bench.

Form: Italy played a composed first half against Australia in their opener, defending well and going to the break tied at six all. In the second half the Italians couldn’t cope with the Australian pressure and they piled on the points to win by 26 points. The scoreline may have flattered the Wallabies, but the Italian defence were simply terrible in the second stanza. Russia also went down in their debut match at a World Cup, losing to USA by 13-6. The Russians looked strong in the pack but the backs looked disjointed and they failed to deliver sustained pressure on the American line. They will be proud of their effort, but they did have a chance to win in what would have been a famous victory.

Prediction: In the only three meetings between these two sides Russia has failed to come close, with the last meeting a 60 point hiding in Moscow. The Bears played well against USA without being rewarded with points, if they are to win this match the backs will have to be more creative with their possession. Italy often play to their strength which has always been a strong pack and good kicking game, but they can score a try or two and Russia can not let the Italians play at a fast pace. Italy are firm favourites and with their professional players they should be far too strong for the brave Russians.
Italy by 35

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Riccardo Bocchino, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Paul Derbyshire, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Cornelius van Zyl, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Pablo Canavosio, 21 Luciano Orquera, 22 Alberto Sgarbi.

Russia: 15 Igor Klyuchnikov, 14 Vasily Artemyev, 13 Andrey Kuzin, 12 Alexey Makovetskiy, 11 Vladimir Ostroushko, 10 Konstantin Rachkov, 9 Alexander Shakirov, 8 Victor Gresev , 7 Andrey Garbuzov, 6 Vyacheslav Grachev , 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Alexander Voytov, 3 Ivan Prishchepenko, 2 Vladislav Korshunov (capt), 1 Vladimir Botvinnikov
Replacements: 16 Valery Tsnobiladze, 17 Alexander Khrokin, 18 Denis Antonov, 19 Artem Fatakhov, 20 Alexander Yanyushkin, 21 Mikhail Sidorov, 22 Yury Kushnarev.

By Alex Barlow-Smith