Italy go in as the underdogs when they host Australia on Saturday and are in danger of being on the receiving end of an almighty backlash created by England’s 35-18 triumph over Robbie Deans’ side.
The Wallabies pride was wounded by the thumping handed out to them by England that has seen them slip back down to third in the latest IRB rankings. In the wake of last weekend’s defeat Australia will be planning to make amends by dishing out some punishment to Italy with a top class performance.
Deans’ has selected a Wallaby line-up that sees a few changes, as James O’Connor is unavailable for the match after he returned home to attend a funeral and Matt Giteau has been given the chop with Berrick Barnes preferred at inside centre.
Similarly there is an opportunity for Luke Burgess to stake a claim for the No.9 jersey as he is given a rare start ahead of Will Genia, who is struggling to sake off an injury sustained against England.
In the absence of both O’Connor and Giteau there is a need to find a suitable goal-kicker and either Kurtley Beale or Quade Cooper will in all likelihood take up the responsibility for this match.
Italy are a team that can easily be underestimated as they are no longer the Six Nations whipping boys of the past, especially under the guidance of their wily coach Nick Mallett.
The Azzurri do have a frustrating habit of running top teams close without being able to overcome the final hurdle to secure a victory, but the growing popularity of the game in Italy combined with their entrance into the Magners league bodes well for the future.
The Italians come into the match off the back of a 22-16 loss to Argentina and will be battle hardened after the tough physical exchanges up front in that match and Mallett and his side have been itching for some time to get a big win over one of the top sides.
Italy will be well advised to take a leaf out of the Welsh and English books and look to dominate the Wallabies up front and keep the ball away from dangerous backline as far as possible.
Despite their victory against the All Blacks in Hong Kong, should Italy pull a rabbit out of the hat and beat the Wallabies the knives will come out and it will be doom and gloom in the Australian press who have had their hands full recently tearing apart their cricket team ahead of the Ashes.
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Paul Derbyshire, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys, 4 Carlo Del Fava, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Santiago Dellape, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Paulo Canavosio, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Andrea Masi.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Will Genia, 21 Matt Giteau, 22 Pat McCabe.
Date: Saturday, November 20
Venue: Stadio A Franchi, Florence
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT; 01.00, Sunday, November 21 AEDT)
Expected weather: An overcast day with a lot of cloud cover and a maximum of 12°C and a minimum of 6°C, with heavy rainfall expected later in the day.
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)