TURIN, Italy (AP) — Italy is bracing for a backlash from Australia at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday after the Wallabies' Grand Slam rugby bid was ended by England in their tour opener last weekend.
Australia blew a 13-6 halftime lead and lost 20-13 at Twickenham. The Italians have yet to beat the Wallabies, and to their concern the visitors made only one enforced change to their starting lineup, with Rob Simmons in for Scott Fardy, who was concussed against England.
"Sometimes it's easier when they come off wins, when they're a little over confident," said Italy fullback Luke McLean, who will earn his 50th cap. "They have their backs to the wall and there's only one way they can go. The last couple of games they have played reasonably well. They finished the Rugby Championship with a great victory over Argentina, and last weekend they were quite unlucky in London. I think (criticism) of their performances have been a little bit over-exaggerated."
The selection of Simmons, usually a lock, in the loose forwards for the first time since the 2011 World Cup, was to help counter an aggressive Italian pack featuring three players on the verge of 100 caps: Captain Sergio Parisse (98), prop Martin Castrogiovanni (98) and lock Marco Bortolami (97).
"We have to take them on up front," coach Ewen McKenzie said. "Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He's instrumental in us winning our own ball while we'll be looking for him to put pressure on their lineout, and their scrum. He has trained very well at blindside flanker and it will be interesting to see how he goes with a bit more space.
"He'll bring his abrasive style. He sits in the top two for us in terms of the volume of tackles and also his tackle completions."
Italy: Luke McLean, Tommaso Benvenuti, Luca Morisi, Alberto Sgarbi, Leonardo Sarto, Alberto Di Bernardo, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni, Marco Bortolami, Antonio Pavanello, Martin Castrogiovanni, Davide Giazzon, Michele Rizzo. Reserves: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matias Aguero, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Josh Fumo, Tobie Bates, Tommaso Allan, Tommaso Iannone.
Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben Mowen (captain), Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Reserves: Saia Fainga'a, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Nic White, Christian Leali'ifano, Joseph Tomane.