Pool C - Italy
Italy is an unknown quantity. They performed well over three games earlier this year in their most succesful Six Nations tournament to date but suffered a heavy defeat against Ireland. Strong and competitive in the pack, Italy on their day have as good a tight five and loose forwards as any other team in the tournament.
They lack creative attacking players in the back line. This is probably because Italy, like Ireland, don't have player strength and depth. There is a smaller pool of players to choose from and many Italians play in the French league - the Italian Union struggles to get their players playing domestically which causes problems.
Italy will be competitive and their key match is against Scotland who Italy beat in the 2007 Six Nations. They will target Scotland to qualify from Pool C in second position and meet Ireland or France in a quarter final. They need to remain unaffected by injury because, as happened against Ireland earlier this year, Italy struggle when players are taken from the team.
Coach: Pierre Berbizier (FR)
Captain: Marco Bortolami
IRB Ranking: 9
Appearances: 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003
Odds to win: 500/1
Number of clubs: 201
Number of Registered players: 100,974
Matches MT W D L
16 5 0 11
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
26 20 37 3
Parisse was the best number eight in the world last season, a fantastic feat considering he is primarily a recovery player who doesn't enjoy the same free flowing position as forwards like Denis Leamy. A good line out jumper, a strong agressive player who will come out of the World Cup as one of the stars, even though he plays for one of the lesser teams.
An agressive player who on his day is a match for any number seven in the world. Suffers indiscipline problems, is quick with the fists, regularly penalised and has been yellow carded. But he is a valuable and experienced player. He has the pace and footballing ability of a back line player and has played in on the wing when Italy have been short of numbers.
Plays club rugby with Parisse at Stade Francais. Mirco is a winger transplanted to the centre simply because of Italy's shortage of players at midfield. Is the one Italian back who along with Stoica has the creative ability to unliock defences. Played particularly well in the first two Six Nations games, and a lot of onus rests on him to perform at France.
Rugby in Italy
Rugby was first played in Italy by British residents of Genoa in the 1890s, and later introduced to Milan by French students. It remains a more popular sport in the north of the country than elsewhere. Mussolini disliked rugby for its association with Britain and tried to substitute a game called Volata, supposedly based on a classical game. It never caught on and the efforts were abandoned in 1933. Italy entered the Five Nations Championship in 2000, creating the Six Nations. The national team has competed at every World Cup since 1987.