Rugby Italy towards the World Cup. The return of Ange Capuozzo is the news of the week leading up to the very soft Italy-Romania test match which will be played on Saturday 19 August at 18.30 at the Riviera delle Palme stadium in San Benedetto del Tronto (live on Sky Sport and TV8). The 24-year-old mercurial full-back from French champions Toulouse had been out for six months with an injury to his right shoulder blade sustained during the Six Nations match against Ireland. Without his flashes, the blue attack has gradually crumbled: luckily the resigned coach Kieran Crowley recovers the youngster with Neapolitan roots just in time for the World Cup which will begin on 8 September in Paris with the sumptuous France-New Zealand and with the Azzurri on the field the day after against the impalbable Namibia in Saint Etienne. Next Saturday the fourth and last test match for Italy against the tougher Japan in Treviso, the last chapter of a crazy pre-World Cup summer which saw the Unions challenge each other beyond all limits of common sense, losing top champions due to injuries or suspensions, also proposing challenges which are worth at least a world semi-final. A half world before the world. Absurd.
For its part, Italy, in the avoidable and not very useful beating received by Scotland and Ireland, completely lost Menoncello, a striker who is difficult to replace, and the Riccioni right-head prop, even if it is hoped that the latter will be recoverable given the times very dilated from the calendar of the impossible poule in which Italy will find Namibia (September 9), Uruguay (September 20 in Nice), New Zealand (September 29 in Lyon) and France (October 6 in Lyon).
Ah, only the first two go to the quarterfinals…
Crowley, against an opponent on whom to impose a heavy price by embroidering perhaps even good deeds, made the debut of the very rare hinge based on the brothers Paolo (fly-half and permanent starter in the national team and in Montpellier) and Alessandro Garbisi (scrum-half , his presence is uncertain among the 33 that will be announced next Tuesday with 12 days ahead of schedule): Italy, while discretely abounding in blueable brothers, from 1929 to today has never had such a titular control room. Prop Nemer is also back, rehabilitated after a six-month ban for making a racist joke (yes, a rotten banana) to his then teammate Traoré.
It will be the 44th encounter between Italy and Romania: the two teams will compete again just over a year after the last previous match in which Italy won 45-13 in Bucharest. In the extended triangle, with Capuozzo here are Odogwu (a de facto debutant after the even opaque 22 minutes with Ireland) and Ioanei. Pair of centers formed by Brex and Morisi. Captain Lamaro returns to the third line from the first minute together with Halafihi and Negri. Confirmation for Lamb in the second row who will take the field with Niccolò Cannone. Front line formed by Ferrari, Nicotera and Nemer.
«A new phase of preparation for the World Cup begins for us – says Crowley. The one against Romania is the first step of two games, then there will be Japan, which represent a crucial moment of the season for us. Romania is a physical team. We have prepared the game well and we aim to win our first success of the summer in front of our fans».
“We aim for the first success”, “crucial moment”? How much diplomacy. All that would be left is for us not to win by a large margin: Romania is 19th in the world rankings (Italy 13th) and is only a pale ghost of the state squadron which in the pre-professional era made even the big names in Europe tremble. A physically tough national team also rich in technical talents such as Alex Penciu, formidable full back who died the day before yesterday at the age of 91 after dispensing great rugby (how to play and as a coach) also in Rovigo, Mantua, Villadose and Belluno.
Really other times. Instead, the current Romania in the last two weeks has presented a formation that no longer has stars in the European championships and which has been turned inside out by an experimental USA (national team that has not even qualified for the World Cup) and by Georgia. In these two matches, the Romanians scored 23 points against their very dead father, conceding 87. In short, the ideal team for these matches leading up to the World Cup.
Italy: Capuozzo, Odogwu, Brex, Morisi, Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Alessandro Garbisi, Halafihi, Lamaro, Negri, Lamb, Niccolò Cannone. Ferrari, Nicotera, Nemer. Subs: Faiva, Zani, Ceccarelli, Ruzza, Lorenzo Cannone, Fusco, Allan, Pani.
Romania: Vaosava; Simionescu, Tomane, Gontineac, Onutu; Muresan, Conache; Chirica, Neculau, Stratila; Iancu, Motoc; Gordas, Cojocaru, Hartig. available Bardasu, Savin, Gajion, Macovei, Ser, Surugiu, Pop, Tevita.
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