Match Preview: Italy vs USA
The surprising 36-12 defeat was made all the more worse when starting halfback Jack Johns was ruled out of the tournament after suffering a broken arm.
With an investigation continuing into an incident that occurred following last Sunday’s match, how well the Italians can recover for the USA clash will likely determine their RLWC2017 fate.
After missing last week’s match with a calf injury, the crucial return of experienced five-eighth Terry Campese couldn’t come at a better time.
The 33-year-old was a salient omission in the opening match and he should provide the stability and direction the Azzurri lacked against a gritty Irish line-up.
Josh Mantellato was one of Italy’s best last week, scoring a try and setting up another, so look for their halves to head to the air again to try and find more space on the edges for the 6-foot-5 winger.
Northern Pride half Ryan Ghietti should be better for the run after the late shift to the halves against Ireland, and with Campese at his side he’ll be a key figure to ensure Italy cross the try-line more than just twice.
Conversely, the USA Hawks preparations for the World Cup brought minimal suggestions about their chances of claiming a group-stage win with most of their side selected from their domestic competition.
However, against a Fiji side full of NRL stars, the Hawks proved they could hold their own despite going down 58-12.
Backrower Matt Shipway and hooker David Marando were amongst the Hawks’ standouts and Shipway’s try, along with former South Sydney centre Junior Vaivai’s, proved they can trouble their opponent’s defence close to the line.
If they can manage to find attacking territory on a consistent basis against the Azzurri, the USA could capitalise on their opportunities.
In their favour will be a consecutive appearance at Townsville Stadium which should comfort any nerves they may have experienced in the first week.
Sunday’s match will be the Hawks best chance of claiming a result in this tournament as they face a daunting trip Port Moresby next-up.
After reaching the quarter finals of the 2013 World Cup tournament where Italy did not advance past the pool stage, USA sit at 10th on the international rankings and Italy a surprising two spots behind in 12th.
While those rankings my pit the USA ahead, they’re in for a harsh assignment against an Italian side who will be looking to make up for lost ground after their deflating first week.
Italy vs USA
4.00PM (AEST) Sunday, 5th November
Max McKinney | @MaxMckinney
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Correspondent