Italy claimed a bonus-point 48-7 win over Canada in their Pool B clash in Fukuoka on Thursday.
After beating Namibia 47-22 in an inconsistent performance, Italy produced a much better display to beat Canada and set up an intriguing clash with South Africa on October 4.
With the Springboks and New Zealand also in Pool B, Italy need a win over one of those two sides if they want to progress to the quarter-finals, and their seven-try effort against Canada will fill them with confidence.
Tries from No 8 Braam Steyn and lock Dean Budd – stand-in captain for Sergio Parisse – plus two conversions and a penalty from fly-half Tommaso Allan gave the Azzurri a solid 17-0 lead at the break.
Flanker Sebastian Negri went over early in the second half and Italy got their fourth with a penalty try after Canada’s Matt Heaton was sin-binned for illegally bringing down a driving maul metres out.
Canada never gave up and scored a great try through Andrew Coe but further tries from Mattia Bellini, Federico Zani and Matteo Minozzi gave Italy a convincing win.
Italy’s dominance was built by their forwards who steamrolled through Canada in the energy-sapping humidity at Fukuoka’s Hakatanomori Stadium.
Italy have 10 points but still need to face the All Blacks and Springboks, who are expected to qualify for the quarter-finals, short of an upset of the magnitude of Wednesday’s win for Uruguay over Fiji.
The Italians, who rested several players, were in no mood to allow a second shock within the space of 24 hours and were led by rampaging loose forwards Jake Polledri, Steyn and Sebastian Negri.
Steyn and Budd exploited some poor defence to give their side a 17-0 lead by the 13th minute.
Facing a rout, the Canadians started to make their tackles and began to get some possession which allowed them to dominate field position, however, butchered several opportunities to get on the scoreboard.
Negri extended Italy’s lead when he smashed over from close range before Canada again failed to capitalise on an opportunity when DTH van der Merwe created space through the midfield and managed to put Jeff Hassler clear only for Minozzi to produce a try-saving tackle on the winger less than five metres from the line.
Referee Nigel Owens then awarded a penalty try that secured the bonus point for the Italians before replacement winger Bellini also crossed with about 20 minutes remaining.
Owens created some controversy when he awarded Ardron a try only for the television match official Rowan Kitt to rule it out for a knock-on before the ball landed in the No 8’s hands.
The decision was met by a chorus of boos but the crowd, now firmly behind the Canadians, rose to their feet minutes later when the underdogs scored the best try of the match with a superb finish by winger Andrew Coe.
Italy, however, finished strongly, with replacement hooker Zani shunted over from a driving maul before Bellini put Minozzi in to close out the scoring.