The game management of Italy flyhalf Tommy Allan will be key when they square off against Canada at Elland Road on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Italy struggled to find rhythm in their 32-10 defeat against France last week and are by no means total favourites against the Canadians, who showed glimpses of quality against Ireland in their opening match.
At 22 years old, Allan has yet to fulfill his potential but Italy need a big performance from him on Saturday to keep alive their chances of progressing to the knockout phase of the tournament. Canada frustrated Ireland with courageous defending in the first 40 minutes, but Johnny Sexton ensured Ireland stayed on the front foot. The same maturity will be required of Allan.
Of the seven Tests played between the two nations between 1983 and 2012, Canada have won two and Italy five, but based on their last couple of performances, there’s little evidence to believe the Azzurri will continue their dominance over an improving Canada team.
South African-born wing DTH van der Merwe was full of energy in Canada’s first game and could emerge as the one to punish Italy’s unorganised defence in Leeds.
Jacques Brunel has made one injury-enforced and three rotational changes to Italy’s starting lineup, with centres Gonzalo Garcia and Tommaso Benvenuti replacing experienced duo Andrea Masi and Michele Campagnaro. And in the front row Michele Rizzo and Lorenzo Cittadini take over as the prop from Martin Castrogiovanni and Matias Aguero.
Canada have been boosted by the return of captain Tyler Ardron and his leadership could prove invaluable against an under-pressure Azzurri outfit.
ALLAN’S STATS THAT MATTER
18 – Test caps
10 – Test starts
65 – Test points
2 – Test wins
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Italy 5, Canada 2
Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Michele Rizzo.
Subs: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Mauro Bergamasco, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Michele Campagnaro.
Canada – 15 Matt Evans, 14 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Connor Braid, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Nathan Hirayama, 9 Jamie Mackenzie, 8 Tyler Ardron (c), 7 John Moonlight, 6 Nanyak Dala, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Subs: 16 Aaron Carpenter, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Kyle Gilmour, 21 Phil Mack, 22 Conor Trainor, 23 Harry Jones.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Chris Lee/Getty Images