Preview: Italy v Romania

Date published: October 9 2015

Romania play the biggest game of their recent history on Sunday as they seek automatic qualification for the next World Cup against Italy.

The Oaks will be heavy underdogs against their Six Nations opposition at Sandy Park, but have the opportunity to increase the calls for an overhaul of European rugby if they pull off an upset.

Counting against them is the fact that they have just four days to recover from their comeback win over Canada, and arguably no team has been harder done by in this year's tournament than the Romanians.

After playing France and Ireland back-to-back, they have the same recovery with this final game against Italy, but a win would see them leapfrog the Azzurri into third in the group.

With Georgia also set to finish third in their pool, that would send Europe's seventh and eighth teams, in terms of power if not official ranking, to Japan in 2019, with Italy having to qualify.

Of course that is very unlikely, with Italy looking much-improved during their narrow loss to Ireland last Sunday, and having a full week to prepare for this game.

However, they must get the job done without Sergio Parisse who this week misses out due to injury.

This will also be Brunel's final game as Italy boss after a difficult tenure. A win is vital to at least secure Italy's position in Europe a little longer, but with the domestic game floundering, the next man in has a huge job on his hands regardless of the result in Exeter.

The last time the sides met, eight years ago, was a tense affair in Marseille, with Italy doing just enough to sneak the win, albeit with a considerably stronger side.

However as Ovidiu Tonita, the now-injured Romanian flanker, explained last week, the Oaks are on the decline as well and are in just as great a need of turnaround in fortunes as the Italians.

Lynn Howells has opted for just the one change to his starting line-up from the side who defeated Canada, as Valentin Calafeteanu starts at scrum-half in place of the injured Florin Surugiu.

Ones to watch:

For Italy: Joshua Furno's inability to carry the ball in the correct hand when he got away against Ireland may have cost him a try, but the young second-row has continued his rise with a string of impressive performances in the tournament. As one of the younger members of the pack, he will be a key man going forward for Italy, and will need to fire against the strong Romanian pack.

For Romania: The loss of skipper Mihai Macovei to suspension will really hurt the Oaks if he is banned, after his two tries helped to turn things around against Canada. Oyonnax flanker Valentin Ursache will have to pick up some of the slack in back row, particularly in the carrying game where he can really challenge Italy.

Head-to-head: Romania's scrum has been one of the best in the tournament so far, and if they are to have a chance against Italy, they will need to get the edge in this one. With Romain Poite refereeing, the scrum that advances should be rewarded, so the battle between Mihai Lazar and Lorenzo Cittadini should be fascinating.

Previous results:

2007: Italy won 24-18 in Marseille
2004: Romania won 25-24 in Bucharest
2002: Italy won 25-17 in Parma
2000: Italy won 37-17 in Benevento
1994: Italy won 24-6 in Catania
1990: Italy won 29-21 in Padua
1967: Romania won 24-3 in Bucharest
1966: Italy won 3-0 in L'Aquila

Prediction: Refreshed, Italy should have too much for Romania. Lynn Howells' side will give it everything but they should fade in the final half-hour with Italy winning relatively comfortably. Italy by 12!

The teams:

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Samuela Vunisa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Enrico Bacchin.

Romania: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Michael Wiringi, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Daniel Carpo, 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache (c), 5 Johannes van Heerden, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Replacements: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Marius Antonescu, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Tudorel Bratu, 22 Adrian Apostol, 23 Csaba Gal.

Date: Sunday, October 11
Venue: Sandy Park, Exeter
Kick-off: 14:30 local 
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)