Planet Rugby

Preview: Italy v Wales

22nd February 2013 01:53

Share:

Kristopher Burton Italy v Wales 2012

In at fly-half: Kristopher Burton

Shorn of their star player and reeling from a huge step backwards at Murrayfield, a bruised Italy host Wales this weekend in Rome.

Pardon the melodrama, but Italy without Parisse is like Rome missing the colosseum. Take him away and you lose power, stature and a touch of grace from the Azzurri pack that is nearly impossible to replace.

Italy though must against Wales, so step forward Ratu Manoa Vosawai to fill the gulf. Rome was the scene of historic celebrations at the beginning of this month with victory over France and Parisse was essential to that success. His suspension deprives Italy of their talisman and all rugby fans of his great talent, but there is no excuse for his actions in insulting a referee.

That victory over France however has to be used as a benchmark. Luciano Orquera played the game of his life - deadly accurate in open play, picking the defence apart with his passing and genuinely resembling a completely different player to the one who has been struggling with Zebre at the bottom of the RaboDirect Pro12.

Orquera, however, was so bad against Scotland, that he has been dropped for Kristopher Burton. Attention will turn to Andrea Masi, Gonzalo Canale, Alessandro Zanni and captain for the day Martin Castrogiovanni to provide inspiration.

Whilst Italy on the one hand will have felt deflated following their capitulation at Murrayfield, Wales are bursting with pride.

Their win in Paris was far from a complete performance - their scrum whilst improved certainly benefited from the atrocious turf which prevented France from exerting any dominance - but their commitment in defence and execution when it mattered with George North's match-winning try brought to an end that miserable run of eight consecutive defeats.

An average tackle count of 13 from Andrew Coombs, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau summarised their afternoon - with enough hard-work results duly turned in their favour.

Wales have the ability to produce more alluring rugby than the slugfest served up in Paris, and the expectation is that they will go for broke in Rome. If they are to be contenders for the title then inroads have to be made into England's +26 points difference - and Wales will have no better opportunity than this weekend.

Ones to watch:

For Italy: All eyes will be on Ratu Manoa Vosawai as he puts on Parisse's shirt. If he can produce a similar impact to the regular Italian captain, then credit to him. With only two starts to his name out of ten caps - his only appearance at number eight came against Portugal in the 2007 Rugby World Cup - Vosawai lacks experience and is faced with a tough afternoon against the Welsh back-row. Elsewhere, Andrea Masi is flourishing for London Wasps in the centre but starts from full-back.

For Wales: Scotland proved that Italy are far from a defensive wall, meaning this weekend's fixture is made for tries. North may have grabbed the headlines in Paris, but Alex Cuthbert is due a big performance in this year's Six Nations - with Rome appearing to be the perfect opportunity to make his mark along with giving his Lions hopes a boost. Otherwise, attention should be paid to rising star Andrew Coombs in the second row - with the Dragon making a real impression in his first Six Nations championship so far.

Head-to-head: Italy might sense a slight chink in the Welsh scrum, so expect them to throw one of their more lethal weapons in Martin Castrogiovanni at Gethin Jenkins all afternoon. Jenkins has struggled for game-time at Toulon (Castro's future home) but is beginning to hit form, whilst Castrogiovanni will look to replicate his outstanding performance both in the set-piece and in the loose against France this weekend.

Recent results:

2012: Wales won 24-3 in Cardiff
2011: Wales won 24-16 in Rome
2010: Wales won 33-10 in Cardiff
2009: Wales won 20-15 in Rome
2008: Wales won 47-8 in Cardiff
2007: Italy won 23-20 in Rome
2006: Draw 18-18 in Cardiff
2005: Wales won 38-8 in Rome
2004: Wales won 44-10 in Cardiff
2003: Wales won 27-15 in Canberra

Prediction: Italy's form has been so wildly inconsistent over their first two games that it's difficult to predict which side will turn up. But the absence of Parisse will cut deep and Wales with their pride restored will now want to express themselves. Wales by 10

The teams:

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovambattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Ratu Manoa Vosawai, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Francesco Minto, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c) 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Gonzalo Garcia.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.

Kick-off: 15:30 (14:30 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26