All Blacks expect Italy to bring an ‘expansive’ game

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Assistant coach John Plumtree said that prospect was exciting because it meant the All Blacks had to prepare for everything. Given there is likely to be an emphasis on less experienced players getting game time against Italy, that was a good test at the right time.


Plumtree said one feeling they did have ahead of the game was that Italy was likely to play an expansive game under new coach and former All Black fullback Kieran Crowley.


Italy had struggled with their set-piece during the Six Nations. But, when able to secure the ball, they wanted to play from all parts of the field.


"They'll go into this game with a mindset where they'll want to keep the ball, and play an expansive game, and try and put us under pressure. Our defence is going to have to be really good and well-organised which we are planning, and being ready for all the unexpected stuff that they might come up with," he said.


It would be important for the All Blacks to go into the game with clarity about what they were trying to achieve.  It was also a chance for players to stake a claim for selection for the last two games of the tour against Ireland and France.


Lock Brodie Retallick would not play against Italy as he recovered from the shoulder injury suffered against Wales. He was training but not in contact situations and should be ready to play next week.


Flanker Shannon Frizell was likely to have his first appearance at the weekend now that his injury had recovered.

Plumtree said news of former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman's diagnosis of early-onset dementia was very sad and something that made recent concentration on head injuries so important.


The All Blacks were conscious of that, and correct technique was part of their approach. So far, they had avoided suffering concussions on their extended tour. That suggested they were on the right path, Plumtree said.


"We know that it is not good for our game, and we know that we have to protect our players, and that's whether it is at training or during a game.


"If anything happens out there on the field, it has to be an accident," he said.


Plumtree said safety at training had reached the point where he had a pad designed like a player to enable players to practice perfect clean-out work against a pad designed like a poacher or jackaler.


"We're not using a body for that type of practice. It's all designed to look after the players at practice but it's also designed to practice perfect technique," he said.


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