Uruguay impressed in their Rugby World Cup opener, running hosts France much closer than most people expected

Bourgoin-Jallieu (France) (AFP) - Italy will face a team playing in their own personal World Cup final when the Azzurri take on Uruguay in Nice, defence coach Marius Goosen said on Sunday.

Italy are the third ranked team in Pool A and began their World Cup campaign with a comfortable 52-8 win over Namibia last week, while Uruguay shocked a lot of people in a spirited display when losing to hosts France 27-12 on Thursday.

And while Uruguay have no realistic hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals from a group that also features New Zealand, South African Goosen believes that beating Italy would represent the ultimate achievement for the South Americans here in France.

“This is their World Cup (final) game,” Goosen told AFP at the Italy training camp in Bourgoin-Jallieu in eastern France.

“They’re not the lesser team (in the group), but if you look at Namibia, Chile and all those (underdog) teams who, when they play the so-called third-ranked team in the group, that’s their World Cup (final).

“I’m sure Uruguay, if you speak to them, they will say (playing) Italy is everything for them. They don’t really look at France and New Zealand probably.

“We know what’s coming and we’re ready for it. If we don’t front up properly, we’ll get beaten. It’s as simple as that.”

The two sides met in Parma two years ago, with Uruguay leading two thirds of the way through the match, before Italy rallied late on to win 17-10.

But Goosen said Uruguay have improved markedly since then.

“They are a fully professional team now. We’ve been tracking them since we knew we would play them in a World Cup,” said Goosen.

“The investment money-wise and resources that they’ve had in the last three years is massive and you can see that in their results and the way they play.”

Italy’s Welsh-born scrum-half, Stephen Varney, said he was impressed with the Uruguayans in their France defeat.

“Uruguay played really well, they’re a physical side and they like to play from anywhere, a bit like us,” Gloucester halfback Varney told AFP.

“We know what to expect from them and hopefully it will be a good physical match.”