Friday, June 22, 2012

USA vs Italy Preview

This Saturday´ match up in Houston, Texas is loooking like being a massive occassion. In an attempt to help rugby move from being a fairly popular sport to a very popular one, the governing body of rugby in the country, USA Rugby decided to utilize the brand new, state of the art BBVA Compass Stadium to host Tier one side, Italy. The match will be played in the evening with a 7:30pm kick off in warm conditions. The public has responded well to the match with the occassion possibly going to be the biggest ever in the history of rugby in the United States of America. The match is yet to sell out but a strong crowd is already confirmed due to positive ticket sales. The venue has a capacity of 22,000. In comparison the usual home of the USA Eagles, Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado seating 4,000 people. 

The USA Eagles lineup is the same fifteen players as those who took on Georgia in the 36-20 win last Saturday. The only change sees the teams two wingers switch positions with James Paterson to play on the right wing vs Italy and Luke Hume on the left after they played on the other wing vs Georgia. There are, however, changes to the reserves with former USA Sevens captain, Mose Timoteo selected as the teams backup scrumhalf. Should he get game time it will be his 28th international cap. Will Holder remains on the bench with Roland Suniula again starting. This decision is due to Suniula´ superior defence but it creates a significant problem in that the USA has no specialist goalkicker besides Holder. As such the goalkicking will be done by fullback, Chris Wyles.

Italy have made eight changes to the side that won in Toronto with Luke McLean returning to start at fullback to play with a backline that is virtually unknown. The centre pair of Luca Morisi and Roberto Quartaroli have only four test caps between them. The eternal frustration for Italian rugby of finding a suitable flyhalf is evident in the selection of Riccardo Bocchino for the pivotal position. He was unable to play for either Aironi or Treviso in the Rabo Drect Pro 12. He will partner the returning Edoardo Gori in the halves. Gori alongside left winger Tommaso Benvenutti are the sides two genuine quality backs. Both players are very young and extremely talented. The toher three changes come in the forwards with veteran backrower, Mauro Bergamasco to go up against the young Scott LaValla who plays for his former club, Stade Français. Alberto De Marchi and Carlo Festuccia will start in the frontrow.

History: Remarkably this is going to be the first ever test match between the countries to be held in the United States of America. The teams have only played each other three times in history, two of which were at Rugby World Cup´s. The first ever match between the USA and Italy took place as a Pool Match at Rugby World Cup 1991 with the Europeans winning 30-9 in Otley, England. In 2004 Italy hsoted the USA at Biella-in-Piedmont with the home side winning 43-25. The third and most recent test took place in Nelson, New Zealand in last years World Cup with the Italians winning 27-10. Curiously, despite Italy having won all three tests each time the winning margin has decreased. 

Key Match-Up: Todd Clever vs Robert Barbieri will be an interesting matchup with both players being outstanding tacklers and ball carriers. Clever should have the edge, however. Mike Petri vs Edoardo Gori will be a key clash in at scrumhalf with both players being key to their teams chances as will Taylor Mokate vs Alessandro Zanni with this match-up likely to go far to see the future crendials of the young USA Eagles backrower. This clash could be key but the real focue should be on the centres with Andrew Suniula and Paul Emerick vs Luca Morisi and Roberto Quartarolli. The American centres have a better reputation and indeed play for superior teams in Europe. The best chance of a North American triumph lies in the ability of Emerick and Suniula to break the defensive lines of what is an unproven Italian combination.  

Prediction: The USA certainly have the firepower to seriously challenge Italy. Playing at home, with a big turnout and in summer conditions is going to help the USA Eagles with their style of play. It will be a night to indeed spin the ball wide and the likes of A Suniula, Emerick, Paterson, Hume and Wyles certainly can legitmately claim to be as good, or better than their opponents playing for Italy. The USA also has some stars in the forwards with captain fantastic, Todd Clever having been one of the best in Japan over the past two years and a proven performer every time he plays for his country. Lou Stanfill has been solid for the USA and together with the youth of Scott LaValla and Taylor Mokate the USA Eagles have some real talent. Fery, Biller and Pittman is a good looking USA frontrow but it is not one that will worry Italy. The Italian frontrow will need to be repelled if the home side is to win. Realistically, the USA need Italy to play poor if they are to defeat the Six Nations team but the team sheets given plenty of reason to be optimistic. This is a vastly different Italian side to that from the World Cup. Italy to win by 3 points.

United States of America
15 Chris Wyles (Saracens, England)
14 James Paterson (Glendale Raptors)
13 Paul Emerick (London Wasps, England)
12 Andrew Suniula (Cornish Pirates, England)
11 Luke Hume (Old Blue)
10 Roland Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
9 Mike Petri (New York AC)
8 Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs , Japan)
7 Scott LaValla (Stade Français, France)
6 Taylor Mokate (Wellington Old Boys)
5 Brian Doyle (New York AC)
4 Lou Stanfill (New York AC)
3 Eric Fry (Wellington Old Boys, New Zealand)
2 Chris Biller (Northampton Saints)
1 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh, England)

16 Derek Asbun (Oxford University, England)
17 Mike MacDonald (Unattached)
18 Andre Liufau (l'Uson)
19 Andrew Durutalo (USA Rugby Sevens/Old Puget Sound Beach)
20 Mose Timoteo (San Francisco Golden Gate)
21 Will Holder (Army)
22 Colin Hawley (USA Rugby Sevens)

15 Luke McLean (Treviso)
14 Giovanbattista Vendetti (Aironi)
13 Roberto Quartarolli (Aironi)
12 Luca Morisi (Crociati Parma)
11 Tommaso Benvenuti (Treviso)
10 Riccardo Bocchino (Cavalieri Prato)
9 Edoardo Gori (Treviso)
8 Robert Barbieri (Treviso)
7 Mauro Bergamasco (Aironi)
6 Alessandro Zanni (Treviso)
5 Joshua Furno (Aironi)
4 Antonio Pavanello (Treviso)
3 Martín Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers, England)
2 Carlo Festuccia (Crociati Parma)
1 Alberto De Marchi (Aironi)

16 Davide Giazzon (Rovigo)
17 Michele Rizzo (Treviso)
18 Simone Favaro (Aironi)
19 Tommaso D´Apice (Aironi)
20 Tito Tebaldi (Treviso)
21 Kris Burton (Treviso)
22 Alberto Sgarbi (Treviso)

                       Italy vs USA, Rugby World Cup 2011

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