Connolly tips Wallabies for Italian job - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Connolly tips Wallabies for Italian job

By Darren Walton 07/11/2008 03:46:54 PM Comments (0)

Former Wallabies coach John Connolly believes Robbie Deans' experimental line-up will have far less problems than his Australian team encountered in their last Italian job.

Deans has rolled the dice by including four debutants in one of the most inexperienced Wallabies outfits of the modern era to play Italy in Padova on Saturday.

Two years ago, Connolly's far more experienced side suffered a major scare at the hands of the Azzurri, who led 15-13 at halftime in Rome, before a barnstorming Wycliff Palu got them out of jail for a 25-18 win.

But while Ben Alexander, Sekope Kepu, Quade Cooper and James O'Connor are set to debut and five others are playing their second or third Test, the former Queensland and Bath mentor said Australia would still be too classy.

"The only hope Italy have is if the conditions are poor," Connolly told AAP.

"They need the weather, referee and a lot of luck to be going there way to be in the match.

"The bonus for Australia is there's a New Zealand referee (Bryce Lawrence) and not a European referee, so they won't get involved in the emotion of it, and I think we're capable of a good win."

Connolly endorsed his coaching successor's selections, with the Padova clash the best chance to expose the many youngsters in his 34-man squad in the six-match tour.

"It's no different to 2006, we played 28 players in that tour and I think you have to play

these guys," he said.

Brumbies bolter Alexander faces the toughest test of the rookies, making his first Test start at loose-head prop against a strong Italian front-row of Carlos Nieto, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Salvatore Perugini.

But Connolly felt Alexander and fellow front-rowers Stephen Moore and Matt Dunning had dodged a bullet with Argentine-born, Leicester-based prop Martin Castrogiovanni unavailable.

Hooker Moore rates Castrogiovanni the best scrummager in world rugby and he demolished the Wallabies scrum in 2006.

"That's a real bonus for us (the prop is missing) as he caused us a lot of problems that day," Connolly admitted.

"He's very highly regarded in Europe and is one of the best props in the world."

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