Ireland complete the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup with an ‘all or nothing’ showdown with Six Nations rivals Italy. A fourth successive victory would see Declan Kidney’s men qualify for the quarter-finals as winners of Pool C.
2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP – POOL C: Sunday, October 2
IRELAND (2nd) v ITALY (3rd), Otago Stadium, Dunedin, 8.30pm local time/8.30am Irish time (live RTÉ Two/Setanta Sports Ireland/UTV)
Team News: The Ireland team to play Italy in the final Rugby World Cup Pool C match this Sunday shows eight personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that started against Russia.
Tommy Bowe comes onto the right wing in place of Fergus McFadden. Team captain Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy link up at centre in place of Paddy Wallace and Keith Earls, with the latter moving to the left wing.
Conor Murray has been selected at scrum half in place of Isaac Boss, and will have his provincial colleague Ronan O’Gara alongside him at half-back.
Hooker Rory Best and prop Mike Ross return to the starting front row, while Paul O’Connell resumes in the second row at the expense of Leo Cullen, who captained Ireland to victory over Russia.
The final change sees Stephen Ferris named in the back row instead of Donnacha Ryan, who is listed among the replacements.
Commenting on the selection of the half-backs, head coach Declan Kidney said: “Ronan and Conor went well in the last 20 minutes against Australia. Ronan went well against Russia as well.
“This is the right combination for us against Italy. They’ve played a few times together now. Ronan has been place kicking well, but if Jonathan Sexton was starting on Sunday it wouldn’t worry me.
“I’d hate to go down the road that we’re picking Ronan because of his place-kicking. He’s too good a player to be saying that about him, while Johnny’s place-kicking is not of concern to me.”
He added: “Everyone was talking about the Australia game coming into the World Cup, but in our minds we always knew Italy was the big one. Australia was the attractive one to win, Italy was the necessary one to win.
“The law of averages said Australia would beat Italy in the first match. Unless you do a New Zealand and get 15 points from your first three games it was always going to come down to this.
“England and South Africa find themselves in the same situation – three wins from three, yet they are also in cup final situations.”
Meanwhile, Italy head coach Nick Mallett has made just one change in personnel for Sunday’s crunch clash at Otago Stadium.
Andrea Masi, who was voted the RBS 6 Nations Player of the Year in 2011, has been recalled to the full-back position after recovering from a strained calf muscle.
Luke McLean makes way for Masi and drops to the replacements bench, with Giulio Tonionlatti squeezed out of the matchday squad.
Luciano Orquera, who was a try scorer against the USA, and Fabio Semenzato are the preferred options at half-back, while Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Martin Castrogiovanni combine again in the front row.
The selected Italian panel contains 15 players who got game-time during Italy’s 13-11 loss to Ireland in Rome during last season’s Six Nations.
Leicester Tigers prop Castrogiovanni is the only player in the squad who does not play his club rugby in either Italy or France.
Looking forward to Sunday’s game, Mallett said: “Our whole objective for two years has been to get to this point. If we play really well, which we will have to against a very good team, we have a chance of getting to the quarter-finals.
“And there is a genuine belief that we are getting better. I remember the game (against Ireland last February) clearly because it was very, very disappointing.
“The changing room was very quiet and one of the first occasions I’ve seen an Italian team really, really disappointed at doing very well against another Six Nations team.
“A lot of times in the past they’ve been disappointed to lose, but pleased to run the opposition close. This was one of the first times there was genuine disappointment that they hadn’t managed to hold out and win that game.
“That’s a very good sign because it meant the team had started to believe it wasn’t just good enough to be competitive, that it was really important to win tight games.”
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster).
ITALY: Andrea Masi (Aironi Rugby); Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso), Gonzalo Canale (Clermont Auvergne), Gonzalo Garcia (Benetton Treviso), Mirco Bergamasco (Racing Metro 92); Luciano Orquera (Aironi Rugby), Fabio Semenzato (Benetton Treviso); Salvatore Perugini (Aironi Rugby), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers), Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi Rugby), Cornelius van Zyl (Benetton Treviso), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais) (capt).
Replacements: Fabio Ongaro (Aironi Rugby), Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro 92), Marco Bortolami (Aironi Rugby), Paul Derbyshire (Benetton Treviso), Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso), Riccardo Bocchino (Estra I Cavalieri Prato), Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso).
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Bryce Lawrence, Chris Pollock (both New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Italy to win: 6/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O’Connell (Ireland) – “Italy will bring massive physicality, it’s always been that way with Italy. They’ve always been strong up front. Their nine and ten have been playing really well as well, (Luciano) Orquera and (Fabio) Semenzato.
“It’s always been very tough against Italy over the past years, and Sunday will be no different. There’s been a lot of talk about their scrum, but our scrum’s been going really well too.
“That’s going to be a tough part of the game as well. Italy have improved every time we’ve played them, so we’re expecting a tough game.
“I suppose knockout rugby is something we do know a lot about. A lot of the Italian players as well play with some big clubs in Europe and would have progressed to the knockout phases of the French league. Certainly we know a lot about knockout rugby, but a lot of the Italians do as well.”
Nick Mallett (Italy) – “We believe we have a very strong front row. I don’t regret what I said, it’s an area of our game where we’ve been very good against Australia, against New Zealand, against South Africa, against Ireland, against Wales.
“There isn’t a single team we haven’t been good in the scrum against so it’s a realistic comment, not an arrogant comment. They certainly know that we’ve got a good scrum and Ireland have certainly improved their scrimmage.
“One must remember they got three scrum penalties against Australia but they played against an Australia side without Stephen Moore and in my not so humble opinion I think that Stephen Moore is much, much more important to Australia than any other player on the field because without him, their pack isn’t half as effective.
“But as the Irish quite rightly said, ‘it’s only one area of the game’. They’ve got a good lineout; they’ve got excellent ball runners, they’ve got great backs and we like to think we’ve improved that aspect of our game.”
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