Italy sent out a clear statement of intent when they dismissed Canada 48-7 in Fukuoka City on Thursday. The Azzurri – who also dismissed Namibia by 47-22 in their opening match – will now target South Africa next week in a game that is a straight shootout for a play-off spot.
Italy outscored the hapless Canucks by seven tries to one in a rather one-sided affair. It was Italy’s second bonus-point win in as many games. With Italy seeking a first World Cup quarter-final berth, their maximum points from two matches sent a message to heavyweights South Africa not to underestimate them.
The Springboks, who lost their opener against New Zealand, paid a high price when they were guilty of taking Japan lightly at the last World Cup and cannot afford to do the same again when they meet Italy in Shizuoka.
Italy, who still have the All Blacks to play as well as South Africa, showed their depth by making 10 changes to the starting XV when they beat Namibia and were still too strong for the Canadians.
A day after Uruguay’s shock win over Fiji, Canada started with hopes of achieving a similar upset. The mostly neutral crowd also gave their support to the Canadians in the 22,000-seater stadium, but it was the vastly rearranged Italian side with the superior forward pack who controlled most of the game.
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In a dominant opening spell, flyhalf Tommaso Allan landed a penalty and converted tries by Braam Steyn and Dean Budd. Steyn sent Peter Nelson flying and barged between Nick Blevins and Jeff Hassler on a short-range charge at the line.
New Zealand-born second row Budd, filling in as captain with Sergio Parisse rested, galloped 30 metres through a non-existent defence for his try. Italy’s explosive start realised 17 points in 15 minutes.
Canada arrested the scoring spree for the remainder of the half, but their own scoring opportunities evaporated with missed tackles, a misfiring line-out and wrong options.
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Replacement Matt Heaton dropped the ball when he had the line at his mercy after Tyler Ardron busted his way through the Italian defence. DTH Van der Merwe confronted Italian full-back Matteo Minozzi with a two-man overlap and fed Gordon McRorie on the outside who was bustled into touch.
The second half was barely three minutes old when Italy were on the board again with Sebastian Negri scoring their third try. Canada went close again when van der Merwe set up Jeff Hassler but the cover defence put the wing out in the corner.
A penalty try for an illegal tackle by Heaton ensured the bonus point for Italy and reduced Canada to 14-men with Heaton in the sin bin. Mattia Bellini stretched the lead to 36-0 before Andrew Coe scored in the right corner to get Canada on the board.
But the Italian pack, who had an impressive game, responded immediately to drive over the line for Federico Zani to touch down. The backline then followed with a long-range attack that ended with a try to Matteo Minozzi.
WATCH: RugbyPass Rugby Explorer takes a trek through Italian rugby
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