Preview: Fiji v Italy

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 10:16
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JUNE INTERNATIONALS: Fiji coach John McKee has promised a "much improved" performance from his team when they host Italy in Suva on Saturday.

Both teams are coming off disappointing defeats - Fiji going down 14-37 to Australia and the Azzurri losing 13-34 to Scotland last week.

McKee suggested he is fielding a "stronger" team this week and said they have "worked hard" on improving the mistakes made against Australia.

"The team was unhappy with their performance [against the Wallabies] and are keen to rectify their mistakes," the Fijian coach said.

"Italy will be a very different challenge to the Wallabies," he said.

"They will be focussed on stopping our attack and denying us possession, so we will have to win the physical contest to succeed in this game."

Italian coach Conor O'Shea made two changes to his starting XV for the Suva outing.

Scrumhalf Marcello Violi will make his first Test start, after his three pervious caps were all off the bench.

In the other change Abraham Steyn comes in at No.8 in the place of Robert Barbieri.

Flank Francesco Minto will captain the Azzurri for the first time.

It is a young Italian squad with an average age of just 25.

O'Shea said he hopes the consistency in selection will help Azzurri grow as a team.

"I'm excited to see what Francesco [Minto] can bring as a captain," he said.

"His work ethic is an example for everyone and we look forward to seeing him take the team forward.

"Our goal is to continue on our path, improving with every game and improve our discipline."

Players to watch:

For Fiji: When watching the Fijians, you would be expecting the excitement to come from their hard-running backs, but it is the sublime skill of tight forwards like Leone Nakarawa that really entertain.

For Italy: The spotlight would be brightest of new captain Francesco Minto, to see if he can guide the team to their first win in eight Tests.

Head to head: The most significant of the face-offs is at flyhalf - the skill and flair of Fijian pivot Ben Volavola against the structured approach of Italian No.10 Tommaso Allan.

Recent results:
2014: Fiji won 25-14, Suva
2013: Italy won 37-31, Cremona
2010: Italy won 24-16, Modena
2006: Fiji won 29-18, Lautoka
2005: Italy won 23-8, Monza

Prediction: Italy have never won in Fiji - their three previous visits all resulting in victories to the Pacific Islanders. In fact Fiji have an average winning margin of 32-14 over the Azzurri in matches played in the Pacific. Italy do have a chance of winning and ending that horror run of defeats, but we believe there is more pain coming their way. Fiji to win by 12 points.

Teams:

Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Eroni Vasiteri, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Serupepeli Vularika, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Akapusi Qera (captain), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kalivati Tawake, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: 16 Jale Sassen, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Mosese Voka, 22 Nikola Matawalu, 23 Benito Masilevu.

Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Abraham Steyn, 6 Francesco Minto (captain), 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.

Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: National Stadium, Suva
Kick-off: 14.40 (04.40 Italian time; 02.40 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Graham Cooper (Australia)