Canadian eyes will be fixated on Osaka as Italy take on Namibia in their opening round Pool B match on Sunday at the Rugby World Cup. With New Zealand and South Africa heavy favorites to emerge as the top two sides, it’s a three-team race for third place, and with it automatic qualification for RWC 2023.
The Azzurri will have to face Canada on only three days rest with their match set to take place in Fukuoka on Thursday. As such Conor O’Shea has opted to hold back some of his high profile players with the Repechage winners perceived as a larger threat than the Africa 1 representatives.
Sergio Parisse leads out the side in his record-tying fifth World Cup. He will have fellow centurion Alessandro Zanni alongside, though first choice Leonardo Ghiraldini is not yet fit for duty. Maxime Mbandà comes in on the flank with Jake Polledri left on the bench and Sebastian Negri rested.
The regular halfback duo of Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan will start as does Luca Morisi in the midfield, but Michele Campagnaro will sit out while Matteo Minozzi is among the reserves. Edoardo Padovani again deputises on the wing with Giulio Bisegni also left out.
Namibia’s campaign has already taken a hit with captain Johan Deysel ruled out of the match with a shoulder knock. It’s hoped he will recover for the match against South Africa, but in the meantime Justin Newman fills in at outside center with second row Tjiuee Uanivi wearing the armband for the first time.
The rest of the side is largely as expected with veteran flanker Rohan Kitshoff joining Wian Conradie and Janco Venter in the back row. PJ van Lill, who was cleared of suspension just a week ago, will partner Uanivi in the engine room and Chad Plato starts on wing with Lesley Klim under an injury cloud. He is on the bench but faces a late fitness test for a calf injury.
Sunday’s clash will be the first ever test match between Italy and Namibia in a Rugby World Cup. It will be the fourth overall with the prior matches seeing Italy winning once and Namibia twice. The Africans claimed back-to-back home wins in 1991. Italy earned their victory at Windhoek in 2001.
Though the Namibians have the historical edge, there is no question that it’s the Azzurri who enter the match as firm favorites. Even resting some of their top players this is a side more than capable of a comfortable victory. Expect them to do so though the heavy rain on the forecast may make scoring opportunities less frequent.
Kickoff is set for 2:15pm local time, 10:15pm Saturday evening Pacific time, 1:15am Eastern time, and 2:15am in Rio de la Plata. Live broadcasts will be available on ESPN 3 in Latin and South America, NBC Sports Gold in the USA, and TSN channels 1 and 3 in Canada.
RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED
ITA (on 72.04 points) -vs- NAM (on 61.01 points) in a RWC match
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|If ITA win by 1-15 points||0.000||72.04||61.01||No|
|If ITA win by more than 15||0.000||72.04||61.01||No|
|If result is a draw||2.000||70.04||63.01||No|
|If NAM win by 1-15 points||4.000||68.04||65.01||No|
|If NAM win by more than 15||6.000||66.04||67.01||Yes|
1 Nicola Quaglio, 2 Luca Bigi, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Braam Steyn, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt.), 9 Tito Tebaldi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 12 Luca Morisi, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 14 Mattia Bellini, 15 Jayden Hayward
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Matteo Minozzi
1 André Rademeyer, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 4 PJ van Lill, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (capt.), 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 7 Wian Conradie, 8 Janco Venter, 9 Damian Stevens, 10 Cliven Loubser, 11 JC Greyling, 12 Darryl de la Harpe, 13 Justin Newman, 14 Chad Plato, 15 Johann Tromp
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 AJ de Klerk, 18 Nelius Theron, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Max Katjijeko, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 TC Kisting, 23 Lesley Klim
Date: Sunday, September 22
Kick-Off: 14:15 local (Saturday 22:15 Pacific, 01:15 Eastern, 02:15 Rio de la Plata)
Venue: Hanazono Stadium, Osaka
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Broadcasts: ESPN 3 (Latin/South America), NBC Sports Gold (USA), TSN 1/3 (Canada)