Preview: Italy v Samoa

Date published: November 7 2014

Italy will be out for revenge when they host Samoa in their opening end-of-year Test in Ascoli on Saturday.

Italy will be out for revenge when they host Samoa in their opening end-of-year Test in Ascoli on Saturday.

The Azzurri have battled in their recent matches against Samoa and suffered a 15-0 defeat to the Pacific islanders in Apia when they last met in June.

Samoa also secured a 39-10 victory when these sides met during a four-nation tournament – which also involved hosts South Africa and Scotland – in Nelspruit in 2013.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel expects a tough assignment and knows his side will have to be at their best if they want to be victorious in this encounter.

“Samoa are the most organised of the southern Pacific nations: in the past they leaned on strong individuals, now their game is a lot more structured,” he said.

“We know it’s going to be a difficult challenge.”

Italy welcome back influential skipper and number eight Sergio Parisse, who missed their disastrous June tour where they lost successive matches to Fiji, Samoa and Japan.

Brunel insisted Italy’s scrum problems against Samoa last time out was a flash in the pan and hopes his biggest concern, the Azzurri defence, has learned lessons from past mistakes.

“Our scrum really had problems against Samoa during the tour, but I’m sure it was an exception,” he said.

“Last season we had more serious problems that came from the lack of balance between our attack and defence, which suffered badly.

“That’s why we’ve worked on our defence of late. Now, we have to try and get back to the level we had in 2013.”

Samoa coach and former All Blacks centre Alama Ieremia has picked an exciting starting line-up for this clash. In centre Alapati Leiua, fly-half Tusiata Pisi and scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i they have exciting game-breakers while captain David Lemi and fellow wing Ken Pisi are superb finishers.

Up front, the likes of the experienced Ti’i Paulo, Kane Thompson and Anthony Perenise is expected to provided leadership and grunt at the coalface of the forward effort.

If their forwards can provide quality ball for their exciting backs and Italy’s defence is not at their best then the visitors will get their tour off to a perfect start.

With matches against Canada and England to follow scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i knows they have to be at their best and kickstarting their tour with a win against Italy is imperative.

“The opposition is a lot tougher than we normally have in the autumn, but we need to play those good teams to get better ourselves,” he told the IRB’s Total Rugby.

“We can’t just stay down at the bottom and play the same level. We’ve got some exciting players coming through and it’ll be interesting to see how they go.”

Ones to watch:

For Italy: After a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the Azzurri’s captain and first-choice number eight Sergio Parisse makes a welcome return to his side’s starting line-up. Parisse is one of the most skillful backrowers in the game and his ball-carrying, from the base of the scrum, and ability to offload in the tackle is sure to provide some headaches for Samoa on defence.

For Samoa: When on song, scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i is one of the best players in his position in the world. He is the perfect link between his physical pack and attacking back-line and if Italy can keep him in check it could help them to be successful. However, Fotuali’i is an intelligent player who has the ability to vary his play and if he is stifled he has the ability to bring his team-mates in play which also makes him dangerous.

Head-to-head: There will be plenty of pressure on Italy’s fly-half, New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona, who is making his Test debut. Haimona has impressed as a centre for his club Zebre and will be marking a shrewd operator in Samoa’s experienced playmaker Tusiata Pisi. The two pivots’ decision making will play a crucial role in this game’s end result.

Previous results:
2014: Samoa won 15-0, Apia
2013: Samoa won 39-10, Nelspruit
2009: Italy won 24-6, Ascoli Piceno
2001: Samoa won 17-9, L’Aquila
2000: Samoa won 43-24, Apia
1995: Samoa won 42-18, East London

Prediction: While these are two evenly matched teams and although Italy have homeground advantage, Samoa have proven in recent years that they have the firepower to take on a side of Italy’s calibre. Samoa to win by six points!

The teams:

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Luke Mclean, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.

Samoa: 15 Fa’atoina Autagavaia, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Fa’asalele, 5 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ti’i Paulo, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Albert Toetu, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Teofilo Paulo, 20 Maurie Faasavalu, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 Michael Stanley, 23 Winston Stanley.

Date: Saturday 8 November
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Cino e Lilio Del Duca, Ascoli
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)