Italy are yet to beat New Zealand in a rugby Test but the outstanding All Blacks back-row forward Ardie Savea says they will not take Saturday’s opponents “lightly”.
The 28-year-old drew on his experience the last time the two teams played each other in November 2018, saying the Italian back row had dominated him, then captain No8 Kieran Read and fellow flank Vaea Fifita.
The All Blacks still ran riot in Rome thrashing the Italians 66-3.
“If we underestimate the Italian team it is going to be a long day for us,” said Savea, quoted on the All Blacks official website.
“We know how physical they are and I remember their loose trio the last time we were here carved us up and dominated us, so we’re not taking this game lightly.”
Savea, scorer of 14 tries in his 57 Tests since making his debut in 2016, and his teammates face Italy after outclassing an understrength Wales 54-16 in blistering fashion this past Saturday.
He says he has rarely known a more competitive squad in terms of selecting the match-day 23 as younger players are ready to be blooded in the Test arena.
“The young guys have been awesome. They’re training well, they’re learning, and it’s showing on the field,” said Savea.
“I’m not that old … but for us more experienced guys, having those guys play well, it’s keeping us on our toes, and trying to compete and fight for positions.
“It doesn’t matter who goes out there on the weekend, the lads are on fire, so it’s pretty special.”
As for his own form he is pleased that he was fired up by forwards coach John Plumtree before the Wales Test, who told him to get his hands on the ball whenever the opportunity arose.
“I just found myself in the right place at the right time,” he said.
“For me, it’s just close my eyes, bite down on my mouthguard and go and if you can stop me, you stop me, but I’m going to fight through it.”
The All Blacks should face their two toughest examinations on their tour after the Italy game. They face Ireland in Dublin on 13 November and then France in Paris a week later.
© Agence France-Presse