Italy coach Nick Mallett was relieved to see his side sweep past Russia 53-17 to leave them on course for a Pool C showdown with Ireland.
The Azzurri ran in nine tries, including two apiece for Tommaso Benvenuti and Giulio Toniolatti, to secure a bonus point in a pool thrown wide open by Australia’s defeat against the Irish.
“This was a nervous game for us because we needed to get five points from this game to make sure we go into that Irish game (on 2 October) with a good shout,” Mallett said.
Before Tuesday’s match at Trafalgar Park, Italy were bottom of Pool C after the defeat by Australia in their opening game.
“We have been here for 20 days and only played that one game against Australia, which was a tough game for us to start off with,” Mallett said.
Italy secured their bonus point after just 23 minutes as Russia were overcome by slick passing and a towering performance by captain Sergio Parisse.
The number 8 had a hand in four of his side’s six first-half tries as they raced to a 38-7 lead at the interval.
Russia stuck to their task to finish with three tries, with second-half scores from Vladimir Ostroushko and Alexey Makovetskiy complementing Alexander Yanyushkin’s first-half score.
Benvenuti completed his brace eight minutes into the second half, touching down his own chip ahead.
Luke McLean took advantage of a marking mismatch, going past Alexander Voytov in the 64th minute then racing away for a try, and Alessandro Zanni’s score brought up the half-century on 77 minutes.