Italy are set to be on the receiving end of an All Blacks backlash when they meet at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Apart from the fact that they have a 100% losing record in this fixture, Italy are in the unfortunate position of fronting a wounded New Zealand side desperate to finish the season on a high after a couple of below par performances against England and Ireland.
The All Blacks are rarely beaten. That this happened in Dublin last weekend, having been fortunate to escape with a win at Twickenham the week before, will have left them smarting.
Coach Steve Hansen has made 11 changes to his team, with Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett, captain Kieran Read and Ardie Savea the only survivors from Dublin.
The world champions failed to score a single try last week for the first time in 23 Tests, and Hansen will be hoping the likes of Jordie Barrett, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape will run in a few in Rome.
Italy are coming off the back of a 26-7 defeat to Australia, but the final score didn’t reflect their most courageous display against a tier-one nation this year.
As a result, coach Conor O’Shea has made just one change to his starting XV, with Luca Sperandio replacing Mattia Bellini on the left wing.
The Azzurri did beat Georgia two weeks ago and O’Shea will be demanding a similar performance from his charges against the All Blacks, even if winning is an almost insurmountable challenge.
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Abraham Jurgens Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ofa Tuungasfasi.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images