Italy's stand-in captain Quintin Geldenhuys will have a crucial role to play in the lineouts against Romania at Sandy Park on Sunday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Italians were knocked out of this World Cup when they lost 16-9 to Ireland, but there's still plenty to play for in their final pool fixture, as whoever wins in Exeter will book their place at the next tournament in Japan.
Romania did well to come back from 15-0 down in their previous match against Canada to win 17-15 and claim four log points, their first of the World Cup, and are just one log point behind Italy in Pool D.
The Azzurri produced their best performance of the tournament against Ireland, with the return of captain Sergio Parisse transforming the team. Coach Jacques Brunel said afterwards that the No 8, who had missed their first two fixtures against France and Canada because of a leg injury, is a game-changer even when not 100% fit.
However, Parisse has suffered another injury setback, which will see Geldenhuys leading the team onto the field on Sunday.
While the South African-born lock will have an important leadership role to play, his top priority will be to ensure that his side secures their own lineout ball.
Brunel said it was this set piece that cost them the match against Ireland, with Keith Earls' try coming after the Irish had stolen an Italian lineout. The Azzurri would lose another four of their own throws.
These teams have met 41 times in Test rugby, with Italy having won 22 and Romania 16. The last time they played was at the 2007 World Cup, when the Italians won 24-18 to finish above the Oaks in their pool.
Expect a similar result on Sunday.
GELDENHUYS'S STATS THAT MATTER
60 – Test caps
6 – World Cup matches
3 – Matches played at this tournament
7 – Lineouts won on own throw
0 – Lineout steals
91 – Tackle success rate percentage
HEAD TO HEAD
Italy 22, Romania 16, Drew 3
Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Samuela Vunisa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Enrico Bacchin.
Romania – 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Michael Wiringi, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Daniel Carpo/Mihai Macovei, 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache (c), 5 Johannes van Heerden, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Subs: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Marius Antonescu, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Tudorel Bratu, 22 Adrian Apostol, 23 Csaba Gal.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images