Analysis: Ruzza roars but Italy still seeking clinical edge

A bonus-point win looks like the perfect start for Conor O’Shea and Italy on paper, but there were also plenty of areas for improvement after this seven-try win over Namibia.

A bonus-point win looks like the perfect start for Conor O’Shea and Italy on paper, but there were also plenty of areas for improvement after this seven-try win over Namibia.

O’Shea himself admitted afterwards that his side need to sharpen up, and with their second game arriving hot on the heels against Canada on Thursday in Fukuoka, time is of the essence.

With the big tests still to come in Pool B against the All Blacks and Springboks, it is vital that the Azzurri find their top form when it counts.

It goes without saying, but if you want to beat the best then you need to be ruthless.

Against Namibia, the lowest ranked team at this year’s World Cup, Italy were anything but.

Tommaso Allan conducted affairs impressively from No.10 and the likes of Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti and even Maxime Mbanda produced searing line breaks in the first half.

But far too often the final pass did not go to hand, and Namibia survived.

Even the great Sergio Parisse – on the day he became only the third man to appear at five World Cups – was guilty of knocking on with the try line begging.

The heavens opened in the second half, the game tightened up and Italy were far more compact as a result.

But they have to make hay when the going is good.

Italy had, according to the stats powered by AWS, the best lineout in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.

But their first one on Sunday was overthrown by Luca Bigi and that allowed the Namibians to score the game’s opening try.

The untidiness continued in the first half but in better news, the scrum looked in fine working order.

They won a penalty try in the first half and even pushed Namibia off their own ball in the second.

The injury to Tiziano Pasquali is a blow but with Leonardo Ghiraldini hopefully soon to return, the Azzurri have got plenty of firepower still to come.

Defensively, both of Namibia’s second-half scores were off first-phase moves, which will undoubtedly cause O’Shea consternation.

It should be an easy fix, but it has to be done quickly or the All Blacks and Boks will be licking their lips.

Federico Ruzza marked himself out as a man to watch in the 2019 Championship.

He then helped his Benetton side into an historic play-off spot in the Guinness PRO14.

And on the evidence of this man of the match showing, he remains in top form for the biggest stage of all.

Nominally a lock but able to cover in the back row, his all-round skillset was on full display here.

He carries with a bristling intensity, makes his tackles and does the dirty work but it is with ball in hand that he really stands out.

His offloading game played a big role in getting Italy’s attack moving and then he produced an inch-perfect no-look pop pass to release Tito Tebaldi down the blindside for the vital score on half-time.

His importance to this team was best exemplified when O’Shea hauled him off, along with Allan, the moment that the bonus point had been secured at the start of the second half.

Wrap him up in cotton wool and save him for the big games to come.

With the result wrapped up, O’Shea then took his chance to take a look at his reinforcements. And two of them in particular stood out.

Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri were perhaps surprise omissions from the starting XV but the former is still working his way back to full fitness and the latter is likely being saved for what is to come.

But they both made a sizeable impact when introduced in the second half.

Minozzi got some game time back at full-back, where he thrived in the 2018 Championship, and crossed for a fine score in the right corner.

And Polledri also got his name on the scoresheet, showing his trademark leg drive to get over at the back of a rolling maul.

A seven-try win was just what the doctor ordered in the end. And O’Shea will be grateful for the Canada clash as a chance to really tighten the screws before the crunch clashes that will decide their campaign.