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Rugby | Incoming tours

Alesana Tuilagi © Gallo Images

Tuilagi poses a huge threat to Italy



Samoa wing Alesana Tuilagi poses a huge threat to Italy on Saturday when the countries meet in the second round of a South African four-nation tournament.

Japan-based Tuilagi weighs 117 kilograms, is 1.85 metres tall, and panic can spread quickly through opposing defences when he receives the ball on the left flank.

Scotland will testify to the threat the former Parma and Leicester Tigers star poses as he scored two tries in a 27-17 triumph last Saturday in the first round of the three-week tournament.

Slick handling set up the 32-year-old, who joined NTT Shining Arcs last year, for his first try against the Scots and the second illustrated the raw power he brings to the game.

Receiving possession near the touchline at Kings Park in Durban, he cut inside, shrugged off several would-be tacklers and dotted down for the test-clinching try.

It was his first appearance for the Pacific islanders for several years and coach Stephen Betham acknowledged the impact Tuilagi has when he dons the blue-and-white kit.

"It is part of our game to be physical," said the former Samoa sevens team coach ahead of the Nelspruit test, "although we are trying to vary our style with other options that can make us stronger."

The bruising win over the Scots, who treated 15 post-match casualties, also confirmed Samoa as an unpredictable force as they suffered a humiliating 74-14 loss to relegated Super Rugby franchise Golden Lions just a week earlier.

"We crave consistency rather than performing well one weekend and badly the next. Samoans have natural flair and physical attributes, but they must hold their own at the set pieces too," stressed Betham.

The one change to the team that started against Scotland is in the front row with Sakaria Taulafo from Stade Francais coming in at loose-head for Logovi'i Mulipola, who drops to the bench.

France-born Italy coach Jacques Brunel reacted to a 44-10 defeat loss against South Africa by making seven changes, including the axing of 32-year-old fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo after a disappointing first test appearance.

Back comes another Argentina-born playmaker, Luciano Orquera, to fill the No 10 shirt and there are also recalls for centres Gonzalo Canale and Gonzalo Garcia, tight-head prop Martin Castrogiovanni and flank Mauro Bergamasco.

"This team is a good blend of experience," said Brunel of a team that will be led by outstanding No 8 Sergio Parisse and includes six Treviso stars and five from Zebre.

Samoa and Italy have met four times at test level with the islanders winning three before the Azzurri turned the tables through a 24-6 triumph in Ascoli four years ago.

Points and bonus points from the first and second rounds will be totalled and Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria hosts the June 22 classification matches for first and third places.

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