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Thread: Australia -v- Italy, An English Bloggers Perspective

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    (formerly known as Coach) Your Humble Servant Darren's Avatar
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    Australia -v- Italy, An English Bloggers Perspective

    http://rugbyman03.blogspot.com/2006/...australia.html

    A look at Italy v Australia

    This looks to be an intriguing encounter due to the contrast in styles of play and abilities. Italy have a very competitive pack with a front-row that can cause all sorts of problems to bigger teams while Australia have a mobile forward unit with plenty of ability but very little grunt. Conversely Italy have shown themselves barely able to work the ball wide to any degree and rarely score tries through their wingers, a few stunning breaks from Mirco Bergamasco keeping the try-rate above zero for the backline. Australia of course have an experienced, talented, powerful set of backs who are capable of racking up points even when their forwards are getting beaten-up.

    But despite their upturn in fortunes in the last year or so Italy have still yet to post many decent wins. They failed to win any of their six-nations encounters earlier in the year and Australia are unlikely to be an easier proposition. On the other hand the Italians beat the handicap on all 5 occasions and made their opponents struggle in each and every game. A draw in the Millennium stadium was the high point and they were just a minute away from a draw at home to Scotland as well. No great success yet but Berbizier's side look as though they are teetering on the brink of an upset.

    Australia have had a tough time in the last couple of years. An unprecedented run of losses led to the departure of Eddie Jones from the position of head-coach and John Connolly, a more 'streetwise' coach has taken over. His mission: to add steel to a girly tight-five. As yet this has not been achieved and he has gone about things in a strange way. Although the Aussie scrum is better than last year it has hardly reached the level of 'world-class'. Wales, not a renowned scrummaging team, particularly without Horsman, were able to get the upper-hand in this area and potentially saved the match with one big scrum at the end. Not the total domination of last year but still a victory. This is a major sticking point for Australia as it could be argued that they are a front-row away from being serious world-cup contenders. As it stands they could come unstuck against the superior forward strength of Argentina, England, South Africa, France, New Zealand and Wales. Maybe Ireland as well, though Ireland have the misfortune of having their own achilles heal in the same area.

    So why the fuss about scrums? A key area in the game, scrums may be only occasional or they may come thick and fast, but in every case the ball can be won or lost. Possession is nine tenths of the law they say and so it is in rugby, you can not score tries without the ball and the more possession you have the more likely you are to score. Simple see? It is generally accepted that you should win the ball on your put in, but only a strong scrum is likely to achieve this every time. Australia have struggled in this area recently losing possession all too frequently. A strong scrummage is invaluable as an offensive weapon as it ties in the opposition forwards and allows more space to the backs. The route that Italy are more likely to take is the direct one though: get a scrummage inside the opposition 22, preferably 5 yards out and then push the opposing scrum back over their own line. This doesn't often work but the opposing front-row will often be penalised until they end up in the bin or a penalty try is awarded.

    So that's the basics, now the particulars:

    Australia
    1. Al Baxter - This man gets knocked on his arse all to often. If he signed for a Premiership team he would struggle to get a game
    2. Brendan Cannon - Tai McIssac came in, did nothing and has been replaced by a similarly poor scrummager
    3. Guy Shepherdson - Big Rodney Blake is supposed to be the main hope in the front-row, but is replaced this week by Shepherdson - a steady player but unimpressive scrummager

    Italy
    1. Andrea LoCicero - despite the girls name this man is a rock and should eat Shepherdson alive
    2. Carlo Festuccia - Not first choice but a useful player all the same
    3. Martin Castrogiovanni - possibly the toughest scrummager in the Premiership - mighty praise indeed

    Back up is important too as front-row replacements almost always play some part. For Australia Stephen Moore and Nic Henderson - neither would come close to the first-team of any other major national side. For Italy Leonardo Ghiraldini and Carlos Nieto - simply don't know anything about Ghiraldini but Nieto is another strong scrummager and an acomplished player plying his trade with Gloucester. It has been suggested that Salvatore Peruggini's ban for head-butting has weakened their front-row resources but it's hard to see exactly how, the two starting props are monsters.


    Other concerns
    Unfortunately you can not win a game on scrums alone, although England nearly did that against Australia a year ago. Italy will have a sizeable advantage but that is unlikely to be enough. There are other areas that must be taken on board. The line-out is not a problem to Italy, this area likely to be hard-fought and close. The Australian advantage starts to become apparent in the back-row; it's not that the Italian players from 6 to 15 are not good, but it's mainly small technical things and simply having experience at the highest level that Australia excel in.

    A look at the rest of the pack:
    Australia

    4. Mark Chisholm - a talented player but it's fair to say that we have not seen the best of him at international level
    5. Nathan Sharpe - big, strong and fiery. A tough competitor and a vital cog in the Aussie wheel
    6. Rocky Elsom - a big improver, still has off-days but is now a easy choice at blindside
    7. George Smith - the second best number 7 in the world for a while now. Probably
    8. Wycliff Palu - I'm not utterly convinced about his all-round game but he certainly has physicality

    Italy

    4. Santiago Dellape - the lesser of the two Italian second-rows but a very useful player
    5. Marco Bortolami - world-class lock forward, 55 caps at 25 years old, would get into the Aussie team easily
    6. Alessandro Zanni - the least capped player in an experienced Italian side, talented but young
    7. Mauro Bergamasco - very mobile and skilled, maybe not a great 'fetcher'
    8. Sergio Parrise - plays at Stade Francais alongside Bergamasco, not the most physical but a talented player

    The upshot of all this is that Italy will be able to compete for a lot of the game, their forwards every bit strong enough to keep the Aussies from dominating. The trouble is that Australia can score points at a much faster rate through their backs. This is the area that will really make the difference, if Italy's backline can defend strongly they really are in with a shout, but better teams have been cut apart by these Australian stars.

    The Backs

    Australia

    9. Matt Giteau - Had you only seen him play in last weekends game against Wales you would believe this was the only position he played
    10. Matt Rogers - A fly-half? Or a centre? No, he is really a back-three player but is talented enough to play anywhere. Not always that good at 10 though, a debateable ploy to play him here.
    11. Lote Tuqiri - A hard man to stop, one of the best wingers around
    12. Stephen Larkham - A fly-half? yes. But he plays at inside centre this time. Why? Who knows.
    13. Stirling Mortlock - Excellent outside centre - big, tough, skilful. The glue holding this backline together.
    14. Clyde Rathbone - An excellent winger, how Italy could do with players like this.
    15. Chris Latham - The pick of the bunch, Latham has bailed Australia out so many times.

    Italy

    9. Paul Griffen - feisty and fiery with a good pass. Silly hair though
    10. Ramiro Pez - steady but certainly not flash, has improved somewhat in recent years
    11. Paulo Cannavosio - not very big and could be targeted
    12. Mirco Bergamasco - one of the best inside centres around and still only 23. Star of Italy's backline
    13. Gonzalo Canale - The second reason why Italy's midfield is much greater than it has ever been before
    14. Kaine Robertson - doesn't sound very Italian. Nobody will care if he scores, nobody cares anyway
    15. Gurt Peens - yep, Italy have pinched a saffer as well, a steady player. Occasionally drops goals from halfway

    And the verdict:
    Italy are getting better under Berbizier and have caused all sorts of problems for the other teams in the six-nations this year. Australia can cut teams to shreds, but their tight-five is weaker than any in the six-nations. A strong Italy performance and they could get within ten at worst. I genuinely feel that with a bit of fortune and a lot of effort Italy can win this game, but more likely is that they lose by about 12.

    Italy 19 - Australia 31

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    I don't know enough about the Italian players to comment however I think he is well on the money re the Wallabies......unfortunately

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    Champion tdevil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coach
    http://rugbyman03.blogspot.com/2006/...australia.html

    14. Kaine Robertson - doesn't sound very Italian. Nobody will care if he scores, nobody cares anyway
    15. Gurt Peens - yep, Italy have pinched a saffer as well, a steady player. Occasionally drops goals from halfway
    Kaine Robertson - Born in New Zealand
    Gurt Peens - Correct name is Gert Peens, born in Germiston, Gauteng (South Africa) - So he is pretty much useless

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    Last edited by tdevil; 11-11-06 at 10:15. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    Crickey you're a one eyed lot of weiners! Complaining of Italy having a couple of non Italian names in their side!

    Firstly, as I understand the rules , these players must be of Italian descent through one or both their parents to be eligible to play for Italy.

    Secondly, count the Islander, New Zealand, South African, Nigerian and other ethnic origin players in the Australian side.

    Thirdly, love then or loath them, two of the greatest players Australia ever put on a rugby field were of Italian origin, Eales and Campese, and there have been several others.

    Fourthly if you put together a composite team made up of players of Italian origin from Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and England (ever heard of DelAglio) over the last 12 years, that team would be up there with or be better than the best of them.

    Italy doesn't suffer from an inability to sire rugby players. It suffers from a lack of development of the game and of quality coaches from grass roots level, just as in its own provincial way Western Australian rugby has suffered.

    Anyway, with a name like mine you can bet that whoever wins tonight, I won't lose.

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    Nigerian????

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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burgs
    Nigerian????
    OK, sorry Burgs, my mistake, George Musarurwa Gregan, born Lusaka, is of Zambian origin, not Nigerian. Don't know how I could have made such an obvious error.

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    Haha, no worries mate, was the only one I thought you may have meant
    For all, to set the record straight on George, as quoted from Peter Jenkins "The Top 100 Wallabies" (a great read!):

    "Gregan was born in Africa when his parents were there in the 1970's. John, an Australian pharmacist, had met Jenny, a Zimbabwean nurse, when the pair were working and studying in London. George was born after they re-located to Zambia and was immediately registered at the Australian High Commission.
    'I was working in Lusaka at the time and, although George was born there, he's been Australian from the word go' said his father.
    His name, however, reflects the African ancestry on his mother's side. The Gregans gave their son the middle name of Musarurwa.
    'Jenny and I decided to name him after our grandfathers,' John explained. 'I never thought too much about it until my wife said to me some months later: 'You know what it means don't you?' I told her, no.
    Musarurwa, in its English translation, means 'The Chosen One'.
    'Years later when people asked George about it, he didn't know,' John added. 'When we told him he nearly fell over.'
    The sporting prowess also descended from his mother's side: a grandfather played soccer for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) against South Africa in 1936.
    The Gregan family moved to Australia when George was ten months old."

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    Champion tdevil's Avatar
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    You call a Zambian a Nigerian or visa versa, they will probably kill you

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    Fortunately he has never been either, he's as Australian as Ayres Rock

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    Veteran Contributor JediKnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burgs
    Fortunately he has never been either, he's as Australian as Ayres Rock
    Apart from 50% of him coming from his mother....a Zimbabwean nurse!

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    (formerly known as Coach) Your Humble Servant Darren's Avatar
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    50% from another country? That sounds pretty Australian to me

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    Quote Originally Posted by fulvio sammut
    ...
    Fourthly if you put together a composite team made up of players of Italian origin from Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and England (ever heard of DelAglio) over the last 12 years, that team would be up there with or be better than the best of them....
    That's pretty silly logic because technically speaking the Australian team would only be made up of Aboriginal people. Who gives a toss about what country a person is born in. As long as a) if they play for Australia they consider themselves and Australian and likewise for other countries or b) they don't change countries to further their rugby career.

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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    I was just trying to make the point that you can't dismiss the Italians as a force in rugby just because they have been unsuccessful so far. They have people, and as a nation are capable of playing top level rugby.They simply need to develop their rugby players. That you can't dismiss the Italians simply because they are Italian.

    I agree that individual rugby players should be respected on their merits no matter who they play for or their ethnic origins and I also agree that nation hopping is as distasteful as club hopping.

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    Hope you liked it

    Not quite on the money but near enough. Italy are too good a team to not be worth taking at +22 against a team they can dominate in the tight-five. If Australia could take Italy's front-row, and Bortolami, they would be a much, much lower price for the world cup.

    As for Kaine Robertson I know full well he is a Kiwi. Rima Wakarua(?) and Josh Sole have to be under the same heading, but I have no interest in getting into a 'foreign players' debate. Most of the rugby world have players in their line-ups that are not strictly from that country. Just a fact of life.

    Take a leaf out of Italy's book though Australia and get some Argentine props. They're the business.

    Thanks lads and good luck in the next super14 season!

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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    Cheers, RugbyMan03. Look forward to hearing more from someone who is as objective as I am (just joking, I'm the world's most partisan supporter!). The way things are developing this year, second place in the RWC is wide open.

    Incidently, I need 8 tickets each for RWC Australia v Fiji 23/9/'06 Montpellier and NZ v Romania Toulouse 29/9/'06. Any one got any suggestions how I can get them? The official site is impossible and the scalpers, @#$@#$ them, are out of the ball park.

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