Italy and Romania converge at Sandy Park for their concluding RWC 2015 fixtures. The Romanians enter heavy underdogs to one of their most important games in recent history. A win here this afternoon will grant Romania automatic qualification for the Japan World Cup, as they leapfrog the Azzuri into third position. The last time these two sides met, eight years ago, was a tense affair in Marseille, with Italy doing just enough to sneak the win, albeit with a considerably stronger side.
The Oaks’ heroics in this weeks clash with Canadians is sure to boost moral in the Romanian camp. However their short, four-day turnaround weighs heavily against them. Off the back of their bruising battle with the Canadians, proceeded by heavy defeats to France and Ireland, the Romanians will be a weary outfit. The loss of Mihai Macovei to suspension is a major blow, after his two tries helped with Romania’s sensational comeback against Canada. Top14 flanker Valentin Ursache will need to lead the charge, particularly in the carrying game, if Romania are to have any hope of victory this afternoon.
Italy’s valiant effort against the Irish has them pegged as clear favourites in this fixture. Spurred by the return of talismanic chief Parisse, the Italians pushed Ireland close, eventually losing out 16-9. Although Parisse sits out this game due to injury, the Italians will have had a full week to recover and prep for Romania. Italy will hope that the imposing figure of Joshua Furno, who was denied a poignant score against Ireland last week, can continue his string of impressive performances and make up for the loss Parisse’s dynamic carrying ability.
Romania’s powerful scrum has been one of the most impressive this tournament. The battle of the packs will likely have an important sway on this afternoon’s result. A win in this aspect of their game, could give the Romanians an important advantage, as they’re sure to be rewarded by referee Romain Poite. The clash of Lazar and Cittadini could be decisive.