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Preview: Canada v Italy

14th June 2012 12:14

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James Pritchard Canada Italy A 2011

Canadian star: James Pritchard

Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni will captain a young Italy side in Friday's Test match against Canada in Toronto.

Last week's loss to Argentina saw the travelling Azzurri drop below Scotland in the world rankings and coach Jacques Brunel's team will be desperate to make amends against a side now ranked just one place below them.

Italy and Canada are almost neck and neck in the standings; although Canada will start as underdogs, any win would see them take the Italians' 12th place in the standings!

Italy have won the last three meetings between these sides. Canada have beaten their visitors twice before, although the Canadians' last win came in November 2000.

There are seven changes made to the Italian XV that took the field in San Juan. Italy will start two uncapped players, Aironi full-back Alberto Benettin and Treviso centre Andrea Pratichetti.

The 28-year-old Canadian-born Robert Barbieri will start in the back-row for the visitors in his 'home' town. Born to Italian parents, Barbieri first drew attention as a member of Canada's U19 team on an Italian tour, leading to an invitation for him and older brother Michael to try out with Parma.

In the absence of injured regular skipper Sergio Parisse and Marco Bortolami, who dislocated his shoulder against the Pumas, Brunel has handed the captaincy to 'Castro' in his 87th Test match.

Castrogiovanni and flanker Alessando Zanni (64 caps) are the most experienced players in the young Italian side. They total 150 of the 275 caps in the starting XV.

In an all-new front row, Michele Rizzo wins his fourth cap while young hooker Tommaso D'Apice moves up from the bench for his first Test start. Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi returns to the blue jersey almost two years since his last international appearance.

Canada have made six changes to the team that defeated the USA Eagles 28-25 last weekend in Kingston.

Four of those changes are in the pack, with hooker Mike Pletch coming in for the injured Ryan Hamilton and incumbent tighthead prop Jason Marshall returning to the starting XV.

Lock Jebb Sinclair is handed his first start since returning from a stint with the Stormers in Super Rugby and young blindside flanker Tyler Adron gets an opportunity after impressing at training. Two new wingers have been included with Phil MacKenzie and Conor Trainor coming into an otherwise unchanged backline.

Coach Kieran Crowley said that while it was good to get the win against the USA, there is plenty of room for improvement.

"We were happy with the result, but we squandered a lot of opportunities through not seeing the space and through our own mistakes," Crowley told the official Rugby Canada website

"We attacked the areas that we wanted to attack, but didn't do so well with our continuity after that.

"Italy will be a lot stronger than the USA, so we won't get away with the mistakes we made last week. Cutting out the errors in our game is the big focus for us, and if we can improve our continuity then the points will come."

Crowley added the changes weren't made to combat Italy's strengths but rather were about picking the best side available.

"The Italians have a very good scrum and very good set piece generally, and the physical battle is an area they pride themselves on. We will have to step up to try and disrupt their drive and their scrum, and focus on putting them on the ground so we can attack from there," he said.

"But our concentration is on what we can bring to the game. We can only worry about what we can control."

More than 10,000 tickets have been sold for the match in Toronto, which has a large Italian community.

Previous results:
2006: Italy won 41-6 in Fontanafredda
2004: Italy won 51-6 in L'Aquila
2003: Italy won 19-14 in Canberra
2000: Canada won 22-17 in Rovigo
1983: Italy won 37-9 in Toronto
1983: Canada won 19-13 in Burnaby Lake

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Conor Trainor, 13 DTH Van der Merwe, 12 Mike Scholz, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Matt Evans, 9 Sean White, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Tyler Hotson, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Mike Pletch, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tiedemann, 17 Tom Dolezel, 18 Jon Phelan, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Edward Fairhurst, 21 Liam Underwood, 22 Ciaran Hearn.

Italy: 15 Alberto Benettin, 14 Giovambattista Venditti, 13 Andrea Pratichetti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Antonio Pavanello, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni (c), 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Lorenzo Romano, 18 Marco Fuser, 19 Mauro Bergamasco, 20 Edoardo Gori, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.

Date: Friday, June 15
Venue: BMO Field, Toronto
Kick-off: 19.00 (23.00 GMT)
Weather: 17C. Clear skies.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)

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Pool A
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PosTeamPPts
1New Zealand420
2France411
3Tonga49
4Canada46
5Japan42