By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 10/11/13
The Italians can secure a quarter-final match up with world champions New Zealand if they can dispose of Tonga at Halifax.
Italy have been one of the surprise packets at their maiden appearance at the World Cup. No-one expected them to reach the next stage.
Starting off in the opening game, where they defeated Wales 32-16 in an exciting encounter, they have delighted neutral fans and they then played in one of the best matches of the tournament in the nail-biting 30-30 draw with Scotland.
Italy’s future in this tournament, along with Scotland’s, rests on this clash at the Shay. Scotland and Italy have the same points difference so if the Azzurri can beat the Tongans, by any margin, they will go through.
They have a tough task in displacing Tonga. The Mate Ma’a have disappointed at this World Cup, after having quarter-final ambitions of their own, and surely they will want to end on a high. Pacific Islanders are dangerous when they are down and the pride in the nation and the Tongan jersey is paramount.
You can’t count out a team that has the quality of Brent Kite, FuiFui MoiMoi, Glen Fisi’iahi, Konral Hurrell, Jorge Taufua and Daniel Tupou in it.
Simiarly, Italy have a chance to make history and they won’t let it slip. Under coach Carlo Napolitano the Azzurri have been well organised, efficient and imaginative. They have played with great attacking flair, power up front and with lethal goal-kicking. The people of Halifax are in for one hell of a match.
The small West Yorkshire town is only hosting one World Cup match and it should be a belter. Opened in 1921, the Shay is a multi-use sports stadium with soccer team FC Halifax Town and Championship rugby league side Halifax as its tenants.
The rugby league club made The Shay its home base after selling its historic home ground the Thrum Hall in 1998. The venue is smallish, with a capacity of just 14,061, but of that only just under 6000 is seated with a large part consisting of standing areas.
Halifax may play in the level below Super League but the club is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the UK. Commonly know as ‘Fax’, they were founded in 1987 and have a proud history of success.
The old wool manufacture town itself has only a population of around 83,000 but it is a rugby league stronghold, pure and simple. Known for its famous toffee and chocolate products, The Shay should be close to a sellout for these locals love their footy.
I believe the crowd on Sunday will see Italy record a victory and a date with the Kiwis. The Italians are unbeaten and still have a point to prove. Tonga’s defence has been proved fragile and their composure shaky at times. The Azzurri have enough experienced cattle to get the job done and I see them winning by eight points.
Sosaia Feki (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Glen Fisi’iahi (New Zealand Warriors), Mahe Fonua (Melbourne Storm), Daniel Foster (Penrith Panthers), Sydney Havea (Liahona Old Boys), Siliva Havili (New Zealand Warriors), Konrad Hurrell (New Zealand Warriors), Brent Kite (Manly Sea Eagles), Samsoni Langi (Sydney Roosters), Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle Knights), Willie Manu (St Helens), Sika Manu (Penrith Panthers), Nesiasi Mataitonga (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Wests Tigers), Mickey Paea (Hull KR), Patrick Politini (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Nafe Seluini (Sydney Roosters), Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield Giants), Jorge Taufua (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Jason Taumololo (North Queensland Cowboys), Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Siosa Vave (Parramatta Eels)