Preview: Italy v Namibia

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Italy’s campaign could not, on paper at the very least, get off to a better start.

Italy’s campaign could not, on paper at the very least, get off to a better start.

They face a Namibia side on Sunday who are heading into their sixth World Cup and are still chasing their first-ever win.

On top of that, their star man and captain Johan Deysel, who so memorably crossed for a try against the All Blacks four years ago, is out injured.

Conor O’Shea’s Italy side therefore will be confident of a win on an historic day for skipper Sergio Parisse who will make an appearance at a fifth World Cup when he leads his side out in Osaka.

The No.8 will hope to build momentum for his side in a team that shows nine changes from the one that lost to England in their final warm-up game in Newcastle.

Nicola Quaglio, Braam Steyn, Edoardo Padovani, Tommaso Benvenuti, Mattia Bellini and Jayden Hayward are the only six to keep their starting spots.

That means Parisse is joined by Steyn and Maxime Mbanda in the back row while rising stars Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri have to settle for spots on the bench, perhaps with their four-day turnaround before facing Canada in mind.

The big dogs of New Zealand and South Africa loom large in Pool B, but first things first Italy must take care of business in their opener on Sunday.

Italy v Namibia, Hanazono Stadium, Osaka, Sunday September 22, Kick Off 6:15AM (BST)

Conor O’Shea: “Finally our adventure at the World Cup will begin after three months of preparation. We know we immediately have a great challenge with two matches in four days. Our goals right now are the matches against Namibia and Canada.

“The immediate focus is on the first match. Having so little time between the first two matches means almost all the players will play, as that will be important from a physical point of view. We are ready to show our level. By playing our best rugby we can have an opportunity in all our matches.”

Phil Davies, Namibia coach: “We are well prepared. In the next four weeks we’ll be judged on how well we’ve done over the past four years. We’re in a good position. We know we’re fit enough. We have an adaptable way of playing and it’s a great opportunity, a great challenge and the boys deserve all the credit. I hope they can achieve and fulfil all their dreams over the next four weeks because it won’t be for the want of trying, that’s for sure.”

Janco Venter is the big man in the Namibian pack as the Welwitschias go big game hunting this month in Japan. But up against him is the totem pole that is Parisse, becoming only the third man after Mauro Bergamasco and Samoa’s Brian Lima to appear in five stagings of the World Cup.

Italy: 15. Jayden Hayward, 14. Mattia Bellini, 13. Tommaso Benvenuti, 12. Luca Morisi, 11. Edoardo Padovani, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Tito Tebaldi, 1. Nicola Quaglio, 2. Luca Bigi, 3. Tiziano Pasquali, 4. Alessandro Zanni, 5. Federico Ruzza, 6. Braam Steyn, 7. Maxime Mbanda, 8. Sergio Parisse (c) Replacements: 16. Oliviero Fabiani, 17. Simone Ferrari, 18. Marco Riccioni, 19. Dean Budd, 20. Jake Polledri, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Carlo Canna, 23. Matteo Minozzi

Namibia: 15. Johan Tromp, 14. Chad Pato, 13. Justin Newman, 12. Darryl De La Harpe, 11. JC Greyling, 10. Cliven Loubser, 9. Damian Stevens, 1. Andre Rademeyer, 2. Torsten George van Jaarsveld, 3. Johannes Coetzee, 4. PJ Van Lill, 5. Tijuee Uanivi (c), 6. Rohan Kitshoff, 7. WIan Conrade, 8. Janco Venter Replacements: 16. Louis van der Westhuizen, 17. AJ De Klerk, 18. Nelius Theron, 19. Johan Retief, 20. Max Katjijeko, 21. Eugene Jantjies, 22. Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23. Lesley Klim