England, South Africa, Australia.
Those are the three countries with an outside chance of beating New Zealand at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
So, when it was announced that Italy would be without the services of prop Andrea Lovotti and bench player Nicola Quaglio for Italy’s final Pool B game with the All Blacks, the announcement was met with a collective shrug.
Italy were never going to win the game, regardless of whom they ran out.
Lovotti and Quaglio each received three match bans, which is another way of saying the two have concluded their world cup campaign.
Lovotti stuck around until the 43rd minute of Italy’s game with South Africa, when he was sent off from dropping Duane Vermeulen on his head. Quaglio was involved in the same tackle, but the Springboks won the game 49 – 3, so Italy could have fielded mannequins for the same price.
From the tables, it would appear that Italy is doing okay. They have played three and won two, but the two wins were over Canada and Namibia. After they play New Zealand, they will have played four and won two and as pool play comes closer to its conclusion, it is hard to see Italy advancing.
“If Italy does not progress, the balance of the suspensions will be served in the players’ upcoming PRO14 matches,” the committee said.
The two players will miss two PRO14 matches.
The online bookie with which we checked did not supply a quote for New Zealand, while the price for Italy was $51.
That has to be the most generous quote imaginable. New Zealand are favoured by 39.5 points, but judging from New Zealand’s winning margins after they disposed of South Africa for their opener, the All Blacks have been running up tallies that border on obscenity.
New Zealand beat Namibia by 62 points, yet we listened to commentators praising Namibia for keeping the match close until New Zealand decided it had had enough.