Seven-try Italy thrash Namibia in World Cup opener
Italy scored seven tries in their opening match victory against Namibia.
Italy’s flanker Manuel Zuliani (L) evades a tackle from Namibia’s full-back Divan Rossouw (2R) during the France World Cup 2023 Pool A match between Italy and Namibia at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne, south-eastern France on September 9, 2023. Picture: Olivier CHASSIGNOLE / AFP
Italy cruised to a seven-try bonus-point 52-8 victory over Namibia in their Rugby World Cup Pool A opener in Saint-Etienne on Saturday.
Star wing Ange Capuozzo was amongst the try scorers, with Lorenzo Cannone, Paolo Garbisi, Dino Lamb, Epalahame Faiva, Manuel Zuliani and Paolo Odogwu also dotting down, while Gerswin Mouton replied for Namibia.
Full-back Tommaso Allan contributed 17 points with the boot in a faultless display.
It was a 23rd straight defeat in as many World Cup matches for the African side.
Coming away with a maximum five-point haul was crucial for Italy, with clashes against pool heavyweights France and New Zealand to come.
Kieran Crowley’s team is looking to make the knock-out stages for the first time and the New Zealander said they will have to improve to stand any chance of making it to the quarter-finals.
“If you’d given me 50 points before the game I would have grabbed them, but we turned over about 22 balls and you can’t afford to do that,” said Crowley.
“But it was pretty hot out there and the boys are pretty gassed, so we’ll take it and we’ll move on.”
Namibia’s South African coach Allister Coetzee said he was “really proud of the boys” despite failing to end their wait for a first World Cup win.
“They never gave up. They hung in there,” said Coetzee.
“We struggled at stopping their lineout maul and also at scrum time. They are a good side.
“Towards the end it ballooned out a bit, but that is the difference in the conditioning when you come up against a Tier One country.”
Namibia started on the front foot with fly-half Tiaan Swanepoel kicking the first points of the game.
But those hopes quickly unravelled as Italy hit straight back with a penalty of their own from Allan.
And after Namibian hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld was sin-binned for cynically dragging down a rolling maul, Italy cut loose.
The Europeans’ No.8 Cannone barged over from a short-range catch-and-drive and then fly-half Garbisi ghosted through a gaping hole in the Namibian defence to dot down under the posts after a wretched line-out throw by the Africans’ No.8 Richard Hardwick — deputising for the binned Van Jaarsveld — put his side in trouble.
The 14 men soon hit back, though, as Mouton was released in space out wide to dive over in the corner.
After that frenetic start in searing heat at the sun-drenched Stade Geoffroy Guichard, the pace of the game slowed markedly and neither side could add to their score before the break, with Italy turning around 17-8 ahead.
The second half was one-way traffic as Italy started it in much the same way as the first, Lamb barging over from close range after a series of pick-and-gos.
The Six Nations’ perennial wooden spoon finishers then cut loose as Capuozzo showed off his talent, playing a one-two with Monty Ioane before diving over in the corner.
Replacement prop Marco Riccioni thought he had added another try but it was chalked off for a knock-on in the build-up.
However, fellow substitutes Faiva, Zuliani and Odogwu exploited a tiring Namibian defence to add a late flourish.