Ireland's shock win over Australia has placed the Azzurri behind the eight ball, and Nick Mallett's side will have to play out of their skins in the rest of their group games if they are to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time.
The showdown with Ireland on the last day of the pool stages has now taken of even more significance as it is likely to influence the entire tournament, not just Pool C.
The Italians started well in their opener against Australia before being overrun in the last half-hour but that first half certainly showed they are a class side and we have no doubt they will have enough to dispatch the Russians.
Historically, Italy don't have a great record against the former Soviet Union, but the fall of communism coincided with the rise of Italy as a rugby nation the Azzurri have won all the games between these teams since 1990.
Mallett has rung the changes from the side that lost to Australia with only captain Sergio Parisse, full-back Andrea Masi and back Tommaso Benvenuti, who has moved from wing to outside centre, retained in the starting XV. This is definitely not Italy's strongest team.
Salvatore Perugini returns as starting loosehead prop for his first match since Italy's final Six Nations match in March - the upset victory over France in Rome.
"There is a lot of competition for the players for the last match against Ireland and I want to give all the players as much chance as possible before then," said Mallett, whose tenure as Italy coach will end after the World Cup.
The entire Italian team watched Russia's first ever World Cup match when they lost 15-6 to the United States in New Plymouth on Thursday, but learned little from a messy match that was played in heavy rain.
"Russia played very close to the ruck, while the USA tried to play wide. It was difficult for them and they made a lot of errors," said Mallett.
"In fact it was more useful to watch Russia's pre-World Cup match with Northampton and their matches in the Churchill Cup to learn how they play."
Russia boss Nikolay Nerush has poured over the game against the Americans and has made four changes in personnel.
Significantly, Konstantin Rachkov, who started at outside centre in last week's 13-6 defeat by the USA, takes over at fly-half from Yury Kushnarev, who drops to the bench. In the pack, Australian-born lock Adam Byrnes, who came on as a replacement against the Eagles, is preferred to Denis Antonov in the second-row.
"The coaches have analysed the game against USA and told us the mistakes that we have made," said full-back Igor Klyuchnikov
"Our main problem was that we have lost the ball frequently, did not have long-lasting attacks and therefore were forced to spend much time in defence.
"We will apply different tactics against Italy. We are training various combinations in defence and attack. Our forwards are working on line-outs especially as we had many errors at throw-in against the USA."
Indeed, Italy will look to play to their strengths - and Russia's weakness - and attack the set pieces. The Russian pack could be in for a long night.
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