Younger brigade get chances in Rome

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Lynn McConnell     10 Nov 2016     Getty Images

After the first-up loss to Ireland in Chicago, coach Steve Hansen said it had always been the intention to give players a chance in the Italy game and while there was a second chance to play Ireland next week, it was Italy that was the focus this time around.


Flanker Sam Cane will captain the side and debuts could be made by hooker Liam Coltman and wing Rieko Ioane who are named on the bench.

In preparation for the game, Hansen said while they had reviewed aspects of the Ireland performance, they believed that game would be reviewed in more depth on Monday, ahead of the second Ireland Test.

The management didn't think with the different opposition and the different personnel playing that it was as relevant to do the complete review this week.

Monday would be 'an interesting day', he said.

"There were always going to be changes. It's that time of year where if we don't make changes we were going to run out of petrol. It's an opportunity for some people to tell us what they've got at this level," he said.

Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow was always targeted to get a start at halfback in the game, and he had played well for the Maori All Blacks against the US Eagles in Chicago, but the midfield changes of Anton Lienert-Brown at second five-eighths and Malakai Fekitoa at centre was forced on them due to circumstances.
No.8 Steven Luatua needed to be physical in his play.

"If he can do that job at this level of rugby I am not too worried about where he can play. He can play six, eight and probably lock too, if we needed him to, off the bench. We don't really have a designated position for him but his best slot in this side was No.8 where we need some real physicality from him," he said.

The physicality was the thing missing from his game. He was a very good athlete but they needed him to develop into another Jerome Kaino and he was in a battle with Liam Squire and Elliot Dixon who had both shown they had the physicality and there were others coming through the system with that ability.

"Steven has got to show us that he's the man," he said.

Hansen said some players took time to settle in when introduced to the All Blacks environment but lock Scott Barrett, who will have his first start against Italy when locking with Patrick Tuipulotu, had settled immediately.

"You would think he has been here all his life. Maybe that's because he's surrounded up front by a lot of Crusader boys and it makes it comfortable for him but I think he's got the mental fortitude anyway. He's one of those rare breed who can come in and deal with the pressure," he said.

For Damian McKenzie, who will start at fullback, there was a need to appreciate the greater speed at which Test rugby was played and the necessity of looking after the ball.


"Even in the Maori game the other day he had three runs and turned the ball over twice so we will be looking to him to look after the rugby ball in contact. He's not a big man, we know that, but he's got other attributes that make him an international quality play, so he's got to adjust to the speed of the game and use those qualities to his advantage," he said.

Substitute wing Rieko Ioane had settled in well to date. He was all about work ethic, and growing that which he understood. He was getting an opportunity.

"He's a big boy, quick, so we want to see him touch the ball a lot on attack. Defensively the other night for the Maori he was outstanding but didn't get a lot of touches," he said.

They would be looking for him to get a lot of touches, in a lot of places, Hansen said.

While lock Luke Romano was unlikely to return to the side in the remainder of the tour it was also likely that Vaea Fifita's period as injury cover would end after the weekend.

But Hansen had been impressed by him and his contribution, the way he had worked and he said having the opportunity to have him in the squad was 'gold'. He was a fast learner and he said the next time he came into the squad he was sure he would be ready.