Italy head into Wednesday’s World Cup match against Uruguay in the knowledge that the South Americans will likely have targeted them rather than Pool A heavyweights France and New Zealand.
The Italians kicked off their campaign with a 52-8 victory over Namibia, while Uruguay were combative against a second-string France before going down 27-12.
With two huge games against the All Blacks and then France on September 29 and October 6, both in Lyon, Italy know they need to make sure of a victory against Uruguay to go into those games with heads held high.
“This is their World Cup game, and it’s the same for us as well. We have to beat them and they want to beat us with everything,” Italy defence coach Marius Goosen told AFP.
“They’re not the lesser team but if you look at Namibia, Chile and all those teams who, when they play the so-called third-ranked team in the group, that’s their World Cup.
“I’m sure Uruguay, if you speak to them, they will say Italy is everything for them.”
Goosen added: “They don’t really look at France and New Zealand probably. We know what’s coming and we’re ready for it, if we don’t front up properly we’ll get beaten, it’s as simple as that.”
Uruguay’s performance against hosts France caught many by surprise and Goosen is expecting more of the same: “A lot of passion and a lot of grunt.
“We expected that and we’re expecting that on Wednesday as well. They are a fully professional team now, we’ve been tracking them since we knew we would play them in a World Cup.”
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses has made two changes to his starting 15 from the team that lost to France.
German Kessler comes in at hooker and Gaston Mieres onto the wing, while there are 13 survivors in the match-day 23 from the last time the two sides played, in 2021.
– Capuozzo at full-back –
Italy coach Kieran Crowley made four changes to his team, Paolo Garbisi named as inside centre for the first time in Italy colours in place of Luca Morisi, while Lorenzo Pani makes his World Cup debut at right wing as star player Ange Capuozzo returns to full-back.
Garbisi’s brother Alessandro starts at scrum-half in place of Gloucester’s Stephen Varney, while Niccolo Cannone replaces Dino Lamb at lock and Marco Riccioni is in the front row ahead of Simone Ferrari.
Perpignan’s Tommaso Allan started at full-back in Italy’s win over Namibia but switches to fly-half.
Meneses said Uruguay’s draw in the same pool as France was “the way forward”.
“It’s a game that has given us a lot of information to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them against Italy. That’s what we are asking of our players,” the Argentinian said.
“I’m expecting an Italian team that has continued to progress thanks to the level of competition that they can play in.
“They will be a confident team in attack. It will be a good game, a balanced game, I believe.”
Italy’s coach Goosen said Uruguay “showed against France what they are capable of, so we are most definitely not going to underestimate them”.