Italy v Argentina Preview

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Europe, Southern Hemisphere
Tags: , , , ,

Saturday November 23, 9 AM Eastern – Stadio Olimpico, Rome

As rugby-playing nations, there are many similarities between Italy and Argentina. In both countries, soccer is king – but there are also rugby-mad regions. Italy’s rugby culture is heavily concentrated in the North – Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. The sport is more widely popular in Argentina, but still based in the Greater Buenos Aires area and the northwestern Tucumán Province. Both countries have had to battle to gain acceptance from the world rugby community, and now participate at the highest level of international competition – Italy in the Six Nations (since 2000) and Argentina in the Rugby Championship (since 2012). Both countries are known for their strong forward play, and particularly excellent scrummaging, although Argentina has also produced world-class backs such as Hugo Porta, Agustín Pichot, Felipe Contepomi, and Juan Martín Hernández. Perhaps more than anything else, these two teams are passionate. The emotion on the players’ faces during the national anthems is truly something to behold. Gives me chills every time.

 

Italy comes into this match on the back of a 37-31 victory over Fiji, while Argentina was trounced by Wales 40-6. Italy’s most well-known player is number 8 Sergio Parisse – he is their captain and one of the best in the world at his position. His colleagues Alessandro Zanni and Robert Barbieri are also fine players, and together they form one of the most underrated back rows in international rugby.  Young backs Tommaso Allan and Michele Campagnaro will start for Italy for the first time, at flyhalf and outside center, respectively. Flyhalf has long been a problem position for the Italians, and they will be hoping for an assured performance from the 20-year old Allan.

Meanwhile, Los Pumas are without their inspirational captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and the aforementioned Hernández due to injury. They are also missing first-choice centers Marcelo Bosch and Santiago Fernández, as well as lock Patricio Albacete, due to a release agreement between the players’ clubs and the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR).

I expect a physical, scrappy encounter with Italy coming out on top due to Argentina’s personnel issues and home-field advantage. Italy by 7

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