Leeds. End of September. Rugby Union. Elland Road. It has an unusual ring to those words. Leeds, a note rugby league stronghold holding their first ever RWC fixture. Hawkeye Sidekick casts an eye on the action which followed with Italy doing an Ireland 2007 performance to just get over the line over an incredibly determined Canadian team 23-18.
I am going on record. This is the poorest Italian side seen in the last decade. An Italian team without the mercurial Sergio Parisse is an Italian team without any soul. This Italian side is bereft of any leadership without the absence of Parisse. No genuine identity to their play; they are caught in the headlights. Do they use their pack to create a platform or throw the ball out wide? The players do not know seem to know what to do which begs the question what the Italian management are doing during training.
Canada will rue this game for some time to come. They controlled possession (60 / 40) to their more illustrious opponents but key unforced errors were their downfall (missed tackles, kicking the ball from outside their 22) and the errors were real schoolboy errors. Van Der Merwe was the standout player of this game, constantly menacing with ball in hand, great try in the first half which started deep in Canadian territory on fifteen minutes. However, the Scarlets player will rue the pivotal play of the game. Van Der Merwe excellently caught an Italian kick but just outside his twenty-two passed the ball to his full back Evans who kicked it directly into box. It was a massive lapse in concentration and Italy did not have to be asked twice to punish the error. Italy created the phrases from an uncontested lineout (yet again) and allowed Garcia to drive over the line (Canada again missing tackles). It was the key moment of the game. Canada had chances thereafter to score a try but a lack of composure and questionable officiating calls from Clancy and Jackson made sure that Italy would hold on.
Italy win but it looks like the camp is in siege mentality mode. Ghiraldini looks to be out for the Ireland match which means that the Italian lineout is depleted without their first choice hooker. Italy’s missed tackle count (30) was incredibly high and Ireland will hope for the same statistic next weekend. The lack of dominance in the back row battle has trouble written all over for it for Italy. Clancy was kind to Italy in this department where the Azzuri were killing ball consistently. Italy need Parisse back, otherwise Ireland should take Italy to the cleaners with a comprehensive victory next weekend. Exciting game but neither side realistically have the talent to get out of this pool. Ireland have little to worry about with Italy, focus on their own performance and the result will take care of itself.