Leonardo Ghiraldini took charge of the Captain’s Run at the Surrey Sports Park on Friday morning ahead of Italy’s Rugby World Cup opening match against France at Twickenham. The Italians and French clash in Pool D at England’s home of rugby in what could be a crucial fixture in terms of qualifying for the quarter-finals. The Azzurri have only beaten Les Bleus three times in 36 meetings but two of those wins have come in the last five meetings.
Scrumhalf Edoardo Gori says: ‘They are favorites to progress beyond this round. So I would say the pressure is all on them.’ Captain for the occasion Leonardo Ghiraldini says: ‘Never give up for eighty minutes. We have to put pressure on them from beginning to end, be adept at a running game and understand their weaknesses and exploit them. We speak of a great team, who beat England a few weeks ago. For us to win, we must reach the last quarter of the match still in touch on the scoreboard. If we play like we do, anything can happen. We must concentrate and be attentive to individual errors. France is a team that is complete in every department. We have more experience up front, but their scrum has dealt a blow to the English in the summer. We cannot think about what has happened in the past. That would be a serious mistake.’
On the absence of regular skipper Sergio Parisse, Gori admits it is a blow but the Italians simply have to get on with business: ‘Sergio is an exceptional player and would play for any national side. It is a great loss, but also an opportunity for all of us. There are 30 other senior players. (Parisse’s replacement) Samuela Vunisa has the ability to do well. We will have to play a physical game, remain in touch with their score and give something more in the final moments. It will be one of the most important games and also difficult in recent years.’
Ghiraldini says: ‘It will be a battle in the scrums against a group of forwards very prepared, with solid international experience in every department of the pack. All we have in terms of technique, individual skills, experience tomorrow we will have to pull out.’
Photo credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for ER2015