Thursday, November 11, 2010
Italy vs Argentina - Preview
Italy have selected a strong side but will be without their star backrower, Mauro Bergamasco of Stade Français who was injured last weekend in the Top 14. In his place will be the promising Robert Barbieri. The other notable players missing is Argentine born centre Gonzalo Garcia who returned from injury last weekend to play in the Magners League. His return came too late to make the team as coach Nick Mallet has instead opted for the veteran pair of Andrea Masi and Gonzalo Canale. Nine of the starting XV play in Italy - four for Aironi and five for the impressive Benetton Treviso. Tommaso Benvenuti who plays centre for Treviso has been selected to make his debut on the right wing. He will join Aironi´s Luke McLean and Racing Metro´s Mirco Bergamasco in a new look back three with Mirco Bergamasco being the goalkicker.
Los Pumas, in contrast will have 10 players based in France, two in England, one in Ireland and two in Argentina in their starting XV. All reserves are professionals with three based in England, three in France and one in Scotland. The veteran front row of Roncero, Ledesma and Scelzo will play together vs Italy for the final time ever after Ledesma, aged 37, announced he will retire after Rugby World Cup 2011. Argentina have selected a bench to ensure that all three can be replaced as two props have been named in Ayerza and Figallo as well as Creevy proving cover at hooker. This policy looks set to be used permanetly for Argentina under coach Santiago Phelan as he looks set to select a team that is a true reflection of the forward power of Argentine rugby.
Rafael Carballo had been selected on the bench as a replacement centre / wing but has been ruled out and replaced by Horacio Agulla. The loss of Carballo could prove to be crucial because it means Los Pumas will have no experienced player avaliable to replace Tiesi should he leave the field. However, the preference given to having two props on the bench is not altogether a risk as Agulla has played one match this season at 13 for Leicester Tigers.
Italy last played in June with two away matches vs South Africa. They lost both games but performed very well, nonetheless showing marked improvement with Craig Gower playing positive rugby. Earlier in the year, Italy were well beaten by England, France, Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations but played well to defeat Scotland - the same team that has defeated Argentina and Ireland this year. The current Italian side is certainly better than the 2009 or 2008 teams. They enter this match looking for a win as they target two wins from their three autumn internationals which also include matches vs Australia and Fiji.
Argentina, in contrast enter on a high after knocking over Fracen 41-13 in their last international match in June. It was not a good month however with two losses to Scotland thanks to the boot of Dan Parks. Argentina lost both games vs the Scots even though they only managed to score 1 try in 160 minutes. Los Pumas did manage to defeat Scotland in their previous match before June which was in November 2009 with a side lacking first choice players at 2, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15. Since France 2007 Argentina has lost matches to England, Italy, Scotland and Italy because of playinger being injured or unavaliable. This weekends match will see Argentina missing first choice players in Patricio Albacete, Alejandro Campos e Juan Martín Hernández. Nevertheless, Argentina has more players avaliable now than at any other time since 2007. Los Pumas will be looking to build on their win vs France this year and going off the current form of players in the Top 14 such as Manuel Carizza, Felipe Contepomi, Santiago Fernández, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Martín Rodriguez Gurruchaga and Rodrigo Roncero they really should get a good win vs the Italians.
Key match-up: In the backs Gower vs Contepomi at flyhalf will be interesting with both players being famous for playing running rugby rather than a kicking game. Tebaldi vs Vergallo will be an interesting battle at scrumhalf but the key feud in the backs will be Canale vs Tiesi. The player who is able to be the more dangerous runner on the day and is able to feed his wingers with better ball will have a big impact on the game. This match, however should be won and lost in the forwards with Castrogiovanni vs Roncero being a vital match up but it is the battle of the 8's that will be the difference. Parisse vs Fernández Lobbe will see the leaders of both packs fight it out as two of the biggest stars in France and indeed global rugby will have a lot to do with how well their team performs. Both are outstanding ball carriers, defenders and lineout men. Interestingly Canale, Castrogiovanni and Parisse were all born in Argentina.
Prediction: After winning the previous match between the two countries in Italy two years ago, Argentina enter this match as favorities. Italy defeated Argentina in June 2008 in a match in which Argentina was without many players due to the Top 14 season not having been completed. For saturdays game the forwards look similar with two huge scrums, two solid lineouts and solid ball carriers. Argentina, though appear to be the better side from 9-15 with possibly only Mirco Bergamasco being a superior player to his opponent. Above all else Argentina has players in great form, especially in the Top 14. Argentina to win by 10 points.
15 Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso)
14 Tomasso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso)
13 Gonzalo Canale (Clermont, France)
12 Andrea Masi (Racing Metro, France)
11 Mirco Bergamasco (Racing Metro, France)
10 Craig Gower (Bayonne, France)
9 Tito Tebaldi (Aironi)
8 Sergio Parisse (Stade Français, France),
7 Robert Barbieri (Benetton Treviso)
6 Alejandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso)
5 Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi)
4 Carlo Antonio Del Fava (Aironi)
3 Martín Castrogiovanni (Leicester, England)
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso)
1 Salvatore Perugini (Aironi)
Reserves: 16 Fabio Ongaro (Aironi), 17 Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro, France), 18 Santiago Dellapé (Racing Metro, France), 19 Paul Derbyshire (Benetton Treviso), 20 Pablo Canavosio (Aironi), 21 Luciano Orquera (Brive, France), 22 Alberto Sgarbi (Benetton Treviso)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais, France)
2 Mario Ledesma (Clermont, France)
3 Martín Scelzo (Clermont, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz, France)
5 Mariano Galarza (Leinster, Ireland)
6 Genaro Fessia (Cordoba)
7 Miguel De Achaval (Alumni)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
9 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
10 Felipe Contepomi (Toulon, France)
11 Lucas González Amorosino (Leicester, England)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France)
13 Gonzalo Tiesi (Stade Francais, France)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (Harlequins, England)
15 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga (Stade Francais, France)
Reserves: 16. Agustín Creevy (Clermont, France), 17. Marcos Ayerza (Leicester, England), 18. Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France), 19. Esteban Lozada (Edinburgh, Scotland), 20. Álvaro Galindo (Racing Metro, France), 21. Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish, England), 22. Horacio Agulla (Leicester, England)
Marcadores: Agustín Creevy, Alfredo Lalanne, Argentina, Felipe Contepomi, Gonzalo Camacho, Gonzalo Tiesi, Horacio Agulla, Juan Fernández Lobbe, Juan Figallo, Lucas González Amorosino, Luciano Orquera, Manuel Carizza, Marcos Ayerza, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Martín Scelzo, Patricio Albacete, Rodrigo Roncero, Santiago Fernández