Italy had plenty to celebrate as Sergio Parisse and his team opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 47-22 victory over Namibia on Sunday.
Not since 1991 against the United States had Italy started a World Cup with a win but that changed against minnows Namibia in Osaka, where the Azzurri scored seven tries to three in the Group B clash.
Italy captain Parisse also earned a share of history, joining Mauro Bergamasco and Samoa’s Brian Lima as only the third player to feature at five World Cups
Eyeing their first World Cup win at the 20th attempt, Namibia struck first in the fifth minute. A sensational passage of play featuring pace and slick hands seeing the speedy Damian Stevens emphatically cross over, and Cliven Loubser added the extras in a memorable moment.
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However, Italy responded six minutes later courtesy of a penalty try and it sparked Conor O’Shea’s men.
A mix of desperation and determination kept Namibia on level terms until Tommaso Allan scored underneath the posts and converted his own try approaching the half-hour mark after a move that started in Italy’s own half.
Italy moved clear 21-7 on the stroke of half-time after Federico Ruzza’s brilliant no-look offload allowed Tito Tebaldi to burst clear as Allan added another two points.
Greeted by sunny skies in the first half, the second 40 minutes started with rain lashing the stadium and it benefited Italy, who scored two tries within seven minutes of the restart via Edoardo Padovani and Carlo Canna.
There was another enjoyable moment for Namibia approaching the hour mark after J.C. Greyling charged into the far corner and Chad Plato also had the crowd on their feet at the death, after Italy pair Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi had crossed over.
Italy show glimpses in pursuit of knockout round
The Azzurri have never progressed beyond the group stage of a World Cup, but Italy impressed at times in mixed conditions. If not for some sloppy hands, the margin of victory could have been greater. It was, however, the second most points Italy have scored, behind the 53 managed against Russia in 2011.
Namibia no pushovers
Namibia enjoyable a memorable opening to the match and while they walked away emptyhanded, there was a lot to like about this team, who displayed plenty of grit and skill.
Key Opta Facts
– Namibia have played 12 Rugby World Cup matches against Tier 1 opposition (L12), today’s 25-point loss is their second lowest margin of defeat in that span (15 points v Ireland in the 2007 edition).
– Italy gained 528 metres in this game, their third-most in a Rugby World Cup match; both matches where they made more occurred in the 2003 edition (529 v Tonga and 591 v Wales).
– Namibia have scored three tries in three of their last four Rugby World Cup matches, they had never scored three tries in a Rugby World Cup match prior to this span.
– Edoardo Padovani (Italy) has scored six Test tries in 2019 for his country, only Japan’s Kotaro Matsushima (7 tries) has scored more this year.
Italy will face Canada in Fukuoka on Thursday, while Namibia take on South Africa two days later in Toyota.
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