Wed, Sep 12, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Italy in desperate need of a morale-boost

AFP , MARSEILLE, FRANCE

Italy supporters cheer their team on before the clash with New Zealand in Marseille, France, on Saturday. Italy lost 76-14.

PHOTO: AP

Italy will bid to bounce back from their drubbing at the hands of tournament favorites New Zealand with a morale-boosting win over Romania in their second World Cup Pool C game today.

After last season's Six Nations campaign, during which Italy beat Scotland and Wales and pushed Ireland close, the Azzurri were not expected to go down quite as heavily as they did to a strong All Blacks side, leaking 11 tries for a final scoreline of 76-14.

They were outclassed in all phases of the game and conceded five converted tries in the opening 20 minutes that ended the match as a real contest.

But Italy have a shot at redemption at the Stade Velodrome today against qualifiers Romania, and players were unanimous that the game could not come quickly enough to wash away memories of the All Black trouncing.

"It's a privilege to have the chance of redemption so soon," Stade Francais flanker Mauro Bergamasco said.

"Now we have to roll up our sleeves, get together in a circle and understand what is going on. We can't let ourselves lose our concentration again."

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier has made six changes for the game.

Paul Griffen and Ramiro Pez are in at half-back in place of Roland de Marigny and Alessandro Troncon.

Gonzalo Canale takes Andrea Masi's spot at outside center, Josh Sole takes the blindside flanker shirt, while prop Andrea Lo Cicero and hooker Carlo Festuccia both start after coming on as replacements against New Zealand.

Romania's French coach Daniel Santamans said his team, which beat Italy in their last encounter 25-24 in Bucharest in June last year, would also be gunning for a win when they take to the pristine turf of the Stade Velodrome.

"Physically, we have trained very hard for this game," Santamans said.

"We have to set up a strategy for them. If we don't have one in our minds, then we can't beat Italy. For Italy, they have lots of players playing at the top level, but for us, we only have a few playing at top-level clubs. But still, we really hope to beat them," he said.

Santamans added, however, that his team would have to work hard to breach a tough Italian defense.

"It's difficult for the Romanian team to have a standard or style of play, because Italy's defense is very well organized," he said.

Romania center Romeo Gontineac, turning out at his fourth World Cup, said not too much should be read into Italy's stunning defeat by New Zealand.

"For all teams playing New Zealand, in the first 20 minutes it's hard to concentrate," he said.

"They have this haka, and it's intimidating. All the teams start like this, but Italy had a very good final 20 minutes in the first-half. It was a good game, and organized. Italy's defense really tried, but New Zealand is the best team in the world -- although they can make mistakes under pressure," Gontineac said.

Romania is one of 12 teams to have played in every World Cup and has recorded four wins in the 16 games it has played, beating Zimbabwe, Fiji, the US and most recently Namibia in 2003.

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