Italy secure place at 2019 World Cup

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Italy sealed automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a 32-22 victory over Romania on Sunday.

Neither of these sides had any chance of making it out of Pool D, with France and Ireland having already secured the two quarter-final berths on offer.

However, with qualification for Japan in four years’ time on the line, there was still plenty to play for in Exeter.

Despite making life difficult late on, Romania were second best for the most part, and Italy pulled away with three first-half tries before Alessandro Zanni wrapped up the bonus point shortly after the break.

A determined Romania finished with a flourish, though, and gave the scoreline a more respectable appearance from their perspective replacement Adrian Apostol going over twice either side of a Valentin Poparlan score.

Lynn Howells has led calls for a Six Nations shake-up in recent weeks and, with Italy appearing the likeliest to lose out in any potential revamp, the Romania coach may well have used that debate as further motivation in his pre-match team talk.

 

And it was Romania who took an early lead Florin Vlaicu splitting the posts with a long-range penalty.

Edoardo Gori was denied a try after spilling the ball forwards as Italy looked for an instant reply, but Leonardo Sarto went over in the corner after 10 minutes to move Jacques Brunel’s side in front.

Tommaso Allan was unable to add the extras but opened his account from the tee after Johannes van Heerden saw yellow for a cynical foul.

Gori’s earlier disappointment disappeared when he capped a period of Italian pressure by diving for the line, before Allan found space to add a try to his own haul just short of the break ending the half with 12 of his side’s 22 points.

Josh Furno went over four minutes into the second half denied by the TMO with the ball held up on the line but it did not take Italy long to extend their lead.

Zanni, who replaced injured captain Sergio Parisse in the Italy XV, emerged from the back of a dominant scrum to touch down.

Apostol kicked off the Romanian fightback by powering over for a try 14 minutes from time and, after Allan had added a penalty for Italy, Poparlan got in on the act nine minutes later Vlaicu on target with both conversions.

But it was too little too late for Howells’ men and, although Apostol crossed in the corner for his second before time was up, the Romania coach will wonder why his side took so long to click into gear in attack.