Italy wary of wounded Aussies
07 November 2013, 20:59
Turin - Italy coach Jacques Brunel has said he would not be taking a wounded Australia for granted ahead of looking to claim an historic first win over the Wallabies when the sides meet in Turin on Saturday.
Australia's hopes for a Grand Slam of five victories on their end-of-season tour of Europe were kept in check at Twickenham last week when England rallied from a 13-6 half-time deficit to win 20-13.
Italy, who beat both Ireland and France in the 2013 Six Nations, have made no major changes to their team ahead of their first November test apart from Luca Morisi's inclusion at outside centre in place of Gonzalo Caanle, who is out injured.
Going on results alone, it is the Wallabies worst period since the game went professional in 1996 and Australia expect a battle against Italy's reputedly strong scrum, one of the tourists' weak points.
However Brunel, who as the former coach of Perpignan came up against McKenzie while the Australian was coach of fellow Top 14 side Stade Francais, is refusing to get carried away.
"Australia are one of the top four teams in the world," Brunel told reporters Thursday.
"You can't say it's the best time to be meeting Australia. I'm sure that after last week's defeat, which to me was quite unlucky, they will bring a lot of intensity and rhythm into this match."
Number eight Sergio Parisse will captain the Azzurri while Australian-born Luke McLean starts at full-back because first-choice Andrea Masi is sidelined through injury.
Italy's newest recruit, Tommaso Allan, meanwhile starts on the bench.
Tommaso recently hit the headlines when he opted to take up an offer to play with Italy's senior squad having played most of his international career at lower levels for Scotland.
McLean said Italy would hope to carry the confidence gleaned from last season's Six Nations campaign to Turin's Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
But he also rejected suggestions it is now or never if the Azzurri want to collect another major rugby union scalp.
"Since last season our confidence has really grown," McLean told AFP, highlighting the wins over France and Ireland and losing to England by just seven points.
"It's those performances that give you confidence but we also realise that confidence can be taken away quite quickly."
McLean, however, believes Australia will be fired up.
"Sometimes it's easier when they come off wins, when they're a little over-confident," he added. "I think they backs have their backs to the wall and there's only one way they can go, and that is forward.
"The last couple of games they have played reasonably well. They finished the rugby championships with a great victory over Argentina, and last weekend they were quite unlucky, for whatever reasons, to come away with the win in London.
"I think (criticism of) their performances have been a little bit over-exaggerated."
15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benevenuti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11
Leonardo Sarto, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse
(captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio
Pavanello, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Michele Rizzo
Substitutes: 16 Leonardo
Ghiraldini, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Joshua
Furno, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Tommaso Iannone
15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt
Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (captain),
7 Michael Hooper, 6 Rob Simmons, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sitaleki Timani,
3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dave Dennis,
20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Christian Leali'lifano, 23 Joe Tomane.