Preview: Italy v USA

Date published: September 26 2011

Italy head into this RWC clash with the USA with one eye on Ireland, whilst the Eagles are determined to end their campaign on a high.

Italy head into this Rugby World Cup clash with the USA with one eye on Ireland, whilst the Eagles are determined to end their campaign on a high.

In many ways Italy and the USA are in similar positions – both are desperately trying to make the jump up to the next level and Tuesday's encounter will stand as a barometer for which team is closer to achieving their goal.

While Italy have been in the Six Nations since 2000, they are yet to truly make the step up to the level of their European counterparts, with wins such as the one against France this year rare highlights in generally frustrating campaigns.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will look to become almost a 'new Italy'; the team that can give the big guns a run for their money, but are still some way off the same level. It's a long term plan but every win on the big stage edges them that little bit closer.

Coming into the tournament, the USA pinpointed two games as potential wins – against Russia and Italy. The first goal has been achieved with a victory against the Bears under their belt. The second, more ambitious challenge now lies ahead.

Coach Eddie O'Sullivan has made fourteen changes to the team that was hammered by Australia, with the first-choice XV now returning to the fray. It's the same side that beat Russia and is obviously O'Sullivan's preferred combination.

Despite this, one interesting selection comes at scrum-half where Mike Petri reclaims the number nine jersey from Tim Usasz who was very impressive against the Wallabies.

Skipper Todd Cleaver knows that his team have a lot riding on this clash.

“If we get two wins it means we automatically qualify for the next World Cup and that would be huge for the country,” said the flanker.

“We will be able to focus not on qualification but on actually having a proper preparation for the next World Cup.”

O'Sullivan does, however, remain realistic about the situation.

“I'm not saying we'll beat Italy, that'd be an arrogant thing to say, but I think we can test Italy and see what they've got,” he said.

While a win for the Eagles achieves long term goals, Italy are looking at the result in a more immediate context.

A bonus-point haul against the USA will mean that the Azzurri's clash with Ireland on Sunday is a shootout for a spot in the play-offs.

“We know about the points and bonus points and so we want to score four tries (against the United States) and go into the last match against Ireland with confidence and a chance to qualify,” said captain Sergio Parisse.

But star prop Martin Castrogiovanni insists there is no room for complacency heading in to the clash.

“it won't be easy,” admitted Castrogiovanni.

“They rested their best players against Australia to be ready for this match. They want to win their second match at a World Cup, because it is something they have never done before.”

Having rested many of his stars for the game against Russia last time out, Mallett has made ten changes and one positional switch for the game.

In the half-backs (a problem area for the Italians), Fabio Semenzato and Luciano Orquera are brought in at numbers nine and ten, while elsewhere in the back-line Gonzalo Canale and Gonzalo Garcia make up the midfield. The return of Canale sees Tommaso Benvenuti move back to the wing where he is joined out wide by Mirco Bergamasco.

Flank Alessandro Zanni, lock Cornelius van Zyl, prop Martin Castrogiovanni and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini all return to the starting XV.

The Azzurri have been dealt a blow on the eve of the clash with Andrea Masi withdrawing due to a calf injury. Luke McLean takes his spot at full-back.

The Italian pack has been strong throughout the tournament and will feel they should dominate the Eagles up front. With the back-line looking sharp against Russia (albeit a fairly different one to the men who will face the USA), Italy will back themselves to score points.

However, one area of concern for Mallett will be their defence, with the side disappointed to have leaked two tries against Russia.

Players to watch:

For Italy: Luciano Orquera has been given the nod at fly-half ahead of Riccardo Bocchino and the 29-year-old will be keen to show Mallett that he made the right decision.

For USA: One area where many of the minnows have come unstuck in their attempts to outdo more established teams is in their goal-kicking. Eagles kicker Chris Wyles will need to have is radar working well on Tuesday if the USA are to shock everyone and take the win.

Head to head: Starting at centre against Russia, Tommaso Benvenuti racked up two tries will be looking to add a few more to his tally on the right wing. The experienced Mirco Bergamasco joins him on the left wing and they'll be up against Takudzwa Ngwenya and James Paterson respectively. The Eagles back-line haven't fired quite as they would like and Ngwenya and Paterson will be looking to rectify that on both defence and attack in the battle of the wings.

Recent results:

2004: Italy won 43-25 in Biella-in-Piedmont
1991: Italy won 30-9 in Otley

Prediction: The Eagles will be determined to end their campaign on a high but the Azzurri should have too much in the tank for them. Italy by 15!

The teams:

Italy:15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 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 Giulio Toniolatti.

USA: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 James Paterson, 10 Roland Suniula, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Nic Johnson, 7 Todd Clever (c), 6 Louis Stanfill, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 John van der Giessen, 3 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Mike MacDonald.
Replacements: 16 Phil Thiel, 17 Shawn Pittman, 18 Scott LaValla, 19 Pat Danahy, 20 Tim Usasz, 21 Nese Malifa, 22 Blaine Scully.

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick-off: 19:30 (06:30 GMT)
Weather:Dry. Max 17°C. Min 6°C
Trafalgar Park, Nelson