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The Azzurri kept the Wallabies camped inside their own half and also enjoyed the majority of the possession in the second-half but could not turn their dominance into more points as they went down 26-7 at the Stadio Olimpico last weekend.
The problem of not being able to turn possession and territory into points is one that has haunted Italy when playing against other tier one nations. They will need to take their opportunities against the most clinical side in world rugby or it will be a long day at the office.
The All Blacks failed to score a try in the 16-9 defeat to Ireland last weekend; the first time this has occurred in 23 Tests and just the second time in over four years.
So, Italy should brace themselves for a backlash here. However, one feels All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen may have missed an ideal opportunity to give fly-half Richie Mo’unga some real game time before the World Cup. After all, the Men in Black only have a maximum of five games before their opening pool match against the Springboks in Japan next year.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Hansen is expecting a tough, physical battle from Conor O’Shea’s side.
“The Italians will bring plenty of line speed, with a wide defensive spread, and again allows us to experience playing this type of team. They’re big men who play with a lot of passion and pride,” he said.
“We saw in their match against Australia last week just how difficult they can be to play if you allow them to dictate the terms of the game.
“Our goal will be to create quality set-piece ball and lightning quick ruck ball, coupled with a real accuracy in our decision-making so we can use our skillsets accordingly. We look forward to again playing at Stadio Olimpico in front of the Italian people and delivering a performance we can all be proud of.”
The All Blacks have come out on top in all 13 of the previous encounters between the sides by an average margin of 48 points. Hansen’s side have won 11 and lost two of their 13 Tests this year, with those defeats coming against Ireland last weekend and the Springboks in the Rugby Championship.
Italy, by contrast, have won just two of their 13 matches played this year, with those victories coming over Japan and Georgia. The closest they have come to beating a tier one nation was when they ran Scotland close only to lose 29-27 in their Six Nations clash.
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
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Edoardo Padovani
New Zealand: 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 Tuungafasi
Replacements: 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