Italy vs. Australia: 5 Reasons Why the Azzurri Could Beat the Wallabies
The record books say it all for Italy.
A total of 15 matches against Australia have yielded 15 defeats. However, in 2013, the two sides meet with hugely contrasting years behind them.
Italy’s fourth-place finish in the Six Nations showed their continuing improvement. Meanwhile, the Wallabies have staggered from Lions defeat to Rugby Championship misery, chopping a coach along the way and bringing in another who is far from settling on his best XV.
With some players nearing the end of their career, others lacking experience and a handful suffering dips in form, Australia are a team used to getting beaten. Italy's Aussie import Luke McLean will earn his 50th cap for the Azzurri if he plays at the weekend, and has told ESPN Scrum that the Italians can sense their chance is now.
Here are five reasons why the Azzurri could be the next team to cash in Australia's slump.
1. Their Best Year so Far
In terms of Six Nations performances, 2013 was a landmark year for Italian rugby.
Sergio Parisse’s men beat France and then Ireland in Rome and were only a converted score away from England in an 18-11 defeat at Twickenham.
It has set them up well to impress back on home soil this autumn, and they will view a limping Australian outfit as a fantastic chance to notch their first major southern hemisphere scalp.
They have never had a better opportunity to beat Australia, and it would cap a fantastic 12 months of progress.
2. The Scrum
The Wallabies have a woeful scrum—without a doubt the worst in the world’s top 10.
Against England, they coughed up five penalties under pressure from the drive, and there is no reason the Italian front row can’t force them into a similar predicament in Turin.
With the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini bringing all their quality and experience to the contest, Italy must be looking at this set piece as a potential points gold mine if they can get the put-in in the right areas of the field.
3. The Aussies Are a Side in Decline
This is no golden generation of Wallaby rugby.
The talent of Israel Folau stands out as a beacon of hope above the mediocrity of a squad that has lost ground on New Zealand, South Africa and, it would seem, a youthful England.
The mood in the camp must be low, and a poor start to the game on Saturday could leave them struggling against a passionate Italian side.
4. They’re Getting Closer
Last season, Italy fought back to a 22-19 defeat in Florence. In fact, 15 of the Wallabies’ points that day came from penalties, with just one try scored by Nick Cummins.
If Italy can keep their indiscretions to a minimum on Saturday, the Australian attack is hardly on fire at the moment, so the visitors could well find points hard to come by.
Italy are best when they can drag a team into the trenches and make it a tight game, and this Australian outfit might struggle to clamber out if their pack comes off second best at the breakdown for a second consecutive week.
5. Wallabies Wilt in the Second Half
Ewen McKenzie has resorted to keeping his men out on the field at half-time to keep them switched on as he identified a problem where they ship points after the break.
It didn’t exactly work very well at Twickenham, so if Jacques Brunel has done his homework, he will have his men fired up and ready to go for the throat early in the second 40 minutes.
You get the sense that if a team can build a lead of more than two scores against Australia at present, their confidence is so fragile that it would take a huge shift in mindset to get back into a game.
If Italy can keep their top two inches on ice once they get ahead, rather than let the passion from the stands pour down into their play, they are in with a great chance on Saturday.