Italy will be hoping to get their first win at the World Cup against the USA on Sunday, despite there being disruption in camp this week.
The Azzurri, who are full of NRL players, suffered a shock defeat last week to the hands of a solid Ireland outfit last weekend and will be determined to perform better on Sunday.
It has also been well documented in both the Australian and UK press this week that there was a punch up between Shannon Wakeman and James Tedesco in a bar after their loss last week, with Tedesco reportedly ‘flirting’ with Wakeman’s girlfriend.
Both players have apparently ironed their problems out shook hands over the issue and the pair are both named in the Italy squad to face the USA.
Meanwhile, the USA will be desperate to put in a much more improved display on the back of last week’s 58-12 defeat to Fiji.
The Hawks are not expected to pick up any points at all in Group D and if Italy want a chance of making it through to the quarter-finals, they need to come away with the victory.
The teams have not had a lot of previous experience in playing each other, with the last meeting between the pair coming way back in 2000, with the Azzurri winning 40-16 against the Hawks.
There will be key areas on the wings like Toronto Wolfpack’s Ryan Burroughs coming up against former Hull KR star Josh Mantellato on the wing but the real key battle will be between Italy’s Paul Vaughan and USA’s Mark Offerdahl in the front-row.
Vaughan has been a regular in the NRL even since making his debut back in 2013. He made 23 appearances for St George Illawarra Dragons in 2017, scoring eight tries. He even played for the NRL All Stars earlier this year and is hard hitting prop who can make a lot of metres.
Offerdahl is the USA captain for the tournament this time round and was one of their better players in their loss to Fiji last week. He is a level-headed player but his work rate stands out above anything else, with him covering every blade of grass in most games he plays in.
ONES TO WATCH
The one to watch for Italy this week has got to be Terry Campese. He has not been the most fortunate with injuries during his career but on his day, he is a brilliant player to watch because he controls games and is a general and there isn’t many like him anymore.
For USA, Bureta Faraimo is the one name that springs to me when thinking of someone to keep an eye on for USA this weekend. The 27-year-old has moved to Hull FC for the 2018 season after plying his trade in the NRL since 2014 and is a powerful winger who plays just like how Mahe Fonua does so you can see why FC have gone for him.
ITALY: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Mason Cerruto, 3. Justin Castellaro, 4. Nathan Milone, 5. Josh Mantellato, 6. Terry Campese, 7. Ryan Ghietti, 8. Paul Vaughan, 9. Joseph Tramontana, 10. Daniel Alvaro, 11. Joel Riethmuller, 12. Mark Minichiello (C), 13. Nathan Brown. Subs: 14. Christopher Centrone, 15. Brendan Santi, 16. Shannon Wakeman, 17. Jayden Walker. Reserves: 18. Gavin Hiscox, 19. Richard Lepori, 20. Christophe Calegari, 21. Gioele Celerino.
USA: 1. Corey Makelim, 2. Ryan Burroughs, 3. Junior Vaivai, 4. Jonathan Alley, 5. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Kristian Freed, 7. Tui Samoa, 8. Eddy Pettybourne, 9. David Marando, 10. Mark Offerdahl (C), 11. Danny Howard, 12. Matt Shipway, 13. Nicholas Newlin. Subs: 14. Sam Tochterman-Talbott, 15. Fotukava Malu, 16. Steve Howard, 17. Gabriel Farley. Reserves: 18. Charles Cortalano, 19. Joe Eichner, 20. David Ulch, 21. Josh Rice.
Referee – Ashley Klein, Touch Judges – James Child & Adam Gee, Video Referee – Robert Hicks.
Italy are clear favourites to win the game because on paper, they have a much stronger squad than the USA. On that note, the Hawks play with a lot of passion and have that never say die attitude embedded in them but loverugbyleague.com predict Italy by 36 points.
How do you see the game going? Who will win? Let us know in the comments below.