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Preview: Samoa v Italy

Fri, 14 Jun 2013 07:23
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Samoa wing Alesana Tuilagi poses a huge threat to Italy when the countries meet in Nelspruit on Saturday.

Japan-based Tuilagi weighs 117 kilograms, is 1.85 metres tall, and panic can spread quickly through opposing defences when he receives the ball on the left wing.

Scotland will testify to the threat the former Parma and Leicester Tigers star poses as he scored two tries in a 27-17 triumph last Saturday in the first round of the three-week tournament.

Slick handling set up the 32-year-old, who joined NTT Shining Arcs last year, for his first try against the Scots and the second illustrated the raw power he brings to the game.

Receiving possession near the touchline at Kings Park in Durban, he cut inside, shrugged off several would-be tacklers and dotted down for the Test-clinching try.

It was his first appearance for the Pacific islanders for several years and coach Stephen Betham acknowledged the impact Tuilagi has when he dons the blue-and-white kit.

"It is part of our game to be physical," said the former Samoa sevens team coach ahead of the Nelspruit Test, "although we are trying to vary our style with other options that can make us stronger."

The bruising win over the Scots, who treated 15 post-match casualties, also confirmed Samoa as an unpredictable force as they suffered a humiliating 74-14 loss to relegated Super Rugby franchise Golden Lions just a week earlier.

"We crave consistency rather than performing well one weekend and badly the next. Samoans have natural flair and physical attributes, but they must hold their own at the set pieces too," stressed Betham.

The one change to the team that started against Scotland is in the front row with Sakaria Taulafo from Stade Francais coming in at loosehead for Logovi'i Mulipola, who drops to the bench.

France-born Italy coach Jacques Brunel reacted to a 44-10 defeat loss against South Africa by making seven changes, including the axing of 32-year-old flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo after a disappointing first Test appearance.

Back comes another Argentina-born playmaker, Luciano Orquera, to fill the No.10 shirt and there are also recalls for centres Gonzalo Canale and Gonzalo Garcia, tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni and flank Mauro Bergamasco.

"This team is a good blend of experience," said Brunel of a team that will be led by outstanding No.8 Sergio Parisse and includes six Treviso stars and five from Zebre.

Samoa and Italy have met four times at Test level with the islanders winning three before the Azzurri turned the tables through a 24-6 triumph in Ascoli four years ago.

Points and bonus points from the first and second rounds will be totaled and Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria hosts the June 22 classification matches for first and third places.

Players to watch:

For Samoa: Look no further than Alesana Tuilagi. The man mountain impressed against Scotland and don't expect anything less from the wing this weekend. The rest of the Samoan back three must also be marked carefully - Alapati Leiua only made his Test debut last weekend and played like a veteran. James So'oialo kicked well and joined the line well and with purpose. Jack Lam is another player to watch out for, the flank was all over the ball on the ground and if Italy are slightly off the mark at the breakdown he will punish them.

For Italy: Luciano Orquera needs to prove he is the first choice flyhalf so that determination could see him regain the form that he showed during the Six Nations. The loose trio of the Italians is experienced as incredibly good around the park and on the ball. It is going to be vital that the Samoans protect the ball when on the ground. Martin Castrogiovanni might be moving on in age but his impact and responsibility in this Italian side does not waver.

Head to head: The ball of the flyhalves will be interesting to watch. The Hurricanes No.10 Tusi Pisi up against Orquera could be the difference between the sides. Whoever can pull the strings for their team will come out on top. The fullbacks are both exciting players when they hit the line but they are going to have to control the back before they can open the game up.

Recent results:
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: The Italians are coming off quite a hiding at the hands of the Springboks and will be hoping for a much improved performance on Saturday. The Samoans beat Scotland for the first time in their history and they will be full of confidence going into this game. Samoa to win by 10 points.

The teams:

Samoa: 15 James Sooialo, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Paul Williams (captain), 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Jeremy Sua, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Wayne Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Logovii Mulipola, 18 James Johnston, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Brando Vaaulu, 22 Seilala Mapusua, 23 Piula Faasalele.

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Valerio Bernabo, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Alberto Di Bernardo, 23 Luke Mclean.

Date: Saturday, 15 June
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 14.15 (12.15 GMT; 08.15 Sunday, June 16 Samoan time)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy day expected in Nelspruit with a low of 11°C, warming to a comfortable 23°C. No rain predicted.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

AFP & Rugby365

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