Canada will open their RWC 2019 account against Italy in Fukuoka on Thursday. The Maple Leafs join their North American neighbors USA as the last teams to begin their tournament. Meanwhile it’s a quick turnaround for the Azzurri after they defeated Namibia in their opening match on Sunday.
Conor O’Shea has opted to rest captain Sergio Parisse, with second row Dean Budd leading the side out for the third time. The New Zealander is one of five changes to the pack with Andrea Lovotti and Simone Ferrari coming in at prop and David Sisi starting at lock. The loose forward trio is impressive even in the absence of Parisse with Sebastian Negri and Jake Polledri named on the flank and Braam Steyn wearing the No8 shirt.
Callum Braley makes his first World Cup appearance after opting for Italy earlier this year. Michele Campagnaro, Giulio Bisegni, and Matteo Minozzi join the backline as Jayden Hayward shifts to inside center and Tommaso Benvenuti to the wing.
With Kyle Baillie already ruled out with a bad knee, Canadian fans have received further bad news as two more are declared unfit for duty. Evan Olmstead is struggling with a foot problem while Taylor Paris is also out with an undisclosed lower body injury.
Conor Keys and Josh Larsen will start in the second row as Mike Sheppard is asked to fill in on the blindside flank. Matt Tierney has beaten out Jake Ilnicki for the starting tighthead role, and captain Tyler Ardron will look to inspire the shorthanded side from his preferred No8 position.
The backs are largely the same group that Kingsley Jones has preferred in recent weeks with one notable change at inside center where Nick Blevins starts in place of Ciaran Hearn, the latter left on the bench. There is no place for Phil Mack, Shane O’Leary, or Conor Trainor with Jamie Mackenzie providing scrumhalf cover and Andrew Coe given the extra reserve back slot.
Canada’s rivalry with Italy dates back to 1983, when the Canadians were 19-13 winners at Burnaby Lake. Since then there have been eight further meetings with the Italy taking seven including a dramatic 23-18 result at RWC 2015. Their June 2016 meeting in Toronto ended 20-18 in favor of the visitors.
A full strength Canadian side might have been an interesting proposition against an Italy side on short rest, but without Baillie, Olmstead, and previously injured Justin Blanchet in the pack, and Paris’ spark out wide, this looks a task beyond their ability. Sites like SBD have the Azzurri as 20-point favorites going in. On paper it’s hard to argue against that prediction.
RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED
ITA (on 72.04 points) -vs- CAN (on 61.12 points) in a RWC match
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|If ITA win by 1-15 points||0.000||72.04||61.12||No|
|If ITA win by more than 15||0.000||72.04||61.12||No|
|If result is a draw||2.000||70.04||63.12||No|
|If CAN win by 1-15 points||4.000||68.04||65.12||No|
|If CAN win by more than 15||6.000||66.04||67.12||Yes|
15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Giulio Bisegni, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd (c), 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
16 Federico Zani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Mattia Bellini
15 Patrick Parfrey, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben Lesage, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Gordon McRorie, 8 Tyler Ardron (c), 7 Lucas Rumball, 6 Michael Sheppard, 5 Josh Larsen, 4 Conor Keys, 3 Matt Tierney, 2 Eric Howard, 1 Hubert Buydens
16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Djustice Duru-Sears, 18 Jake Ilnicki, 19 Luke Campbell, 20 Matt Heaton, 21 Jamie Mackenzie, 22 Ciaran Hearn, 23 Andrew Coe
Date: Thursday, September 26
Kick-Off: 16:45 local (00:45 Pacific, 03:45 Eastern, 04:45 Rio de la Plata)
Venue: Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistants: Wayne Barnes (England) & Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)