Preview: USA v Italy

Date published: June 17 2016

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The USA will look to redeem themselves when they host Italy at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose on Saturday.

The home team come into this clash with a poor run of form after ending off their Americas Rugby Championship campaign in February with two losses on the trot against Brazil and Uruguay.

Italy on the other hand showed plenty of promise in going down 30-24 against 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finalists Argentina in Santa Fe last weekend.

The USA will take on Russia next weekend and they will be looking to improve on their performances over the next two games before they play the Maori All Blacks at Toyota Park in November.

Italy will play Canada in Toronto next Saturday and they will be looking to give new coach Conor O’Shea two consecutive wins before they prepare for the daunting task of facing up to World Champions New Zealand at the Stadio Olimpico in November.

USA coach John Mitchell has handed flanker Todd Clever the captain's armband for this clash with Italy while scrum-half Nate Augspurger will make his debut for the national team alongside fly-half AJ MacGinty.

Meanwhile, Italy coach Conor O’Shea has made only one change to the team that did battle last weekend. Flanker Abraham Steyn sustained an injury against Argentina and he will be replaced by Robert Barbieri while Maxime Mbandà earns a place on the bench.

Powerful Italy winger Leonardo Sarto will be looking to continue with his impressive form after crossing the try-line for his team last weekend. Sarto has the ability to make space on his outside or simply carry the ball forward and the USA will have to set a good defensive line if they hope to stop him from adding to his try tally for his country.

Italy are currently ranked 14th in the world while the USA sit in 17th place according to the latest World Rugby rankings.

The Azzurri have dominated this contest in the past with a record which stands at four wins from four against the USA. The last time the two teams met in 2012 Italy won 30-10 and it should be a similar score line on Saturday.

Players to watch:

For USA: Flanker Andrew Durutalo has been playing Super Rugby for the Sunwolves this season and he has developed into a skilful player who is able to put in some big hits on defence and contribute to the attacking effort with some good running lines.

For Italy: Flanker Simone Favaro had a good all-round game against Argentina last weekend as he put in a big effort at the breakdown and he was rewarded for his efforts with a five pointer of his own during the game. Favaro is an athletic loose forward and he can be a joy to watch if given any sort of space during the game.

Head-to-head: The duel between the two fly-halves should be a thrilling one. AJ MacGinty won the PRO12 with Connacht in May and he will look to take his winning mentality onto the international stage by taking the ball to the line and making sure that the USA are able to get in behind the Italy back three. Azzurri pivot Carlo Canna contributed 14 points from the boot against Argentina last weekend and he will be required to build pressure on the score board this weekend with some accurate kicks at the uprights.

Previous results:

2012: Italy won 30-10 in in Houston, Texas
2011: Italy won 27-10 at Trafalgar Park in Nelson
2004: Italy won 43-25 in Biella in Piedmont
1991: Italy won 30-9 in Otley

Prediction: Italy impressed against Argentina last weekend and will win this one by at least 20 points.

The teams:

USA: 15 Will Holder, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Thretton Palamo, 12 Shalom Suniula, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Todd Clever (C), 6 Andrew Durutalo, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Nate Brakeley, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Titi Lamositele
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete'e, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Angus MacLellan, 19 Stephen Tomasin, 20 Harry Higgins, 21 Tony Lamborn, 22 Chad London, 23 Mike Te'o

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 David Odiete, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Robert Barbieri, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti

Date: Saturday, June 18
Venue: Avaya Stadium, San Jose
Kick-off: 18:00 local (01:00 GMT, Sunday, June 19)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Chris Assmus (Canada)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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