Match details: All Blacks vs Italy, Saturday 24 November, 3pm CST, (3am Sunday 25 November NZT), Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Won: All Blacks 14
Last time: All Blacks 68, Italy 10 (November 2016)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
As expected, the All Blacks have made sweeping changes to the side for the final Test of the year. In total there are 11 changes to the starting side with an all-new tight five, midfield and wing pairing the most significant changes to the team. Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie have retained the 10 and 15 jerseys respectively with Jordie Barrett slotting onto the right wing and TJ Perenara coming in at halfback. The final change from last week’s starting fifteen against Ireland is Vaea Fifita at blindside flanker in place of the injured Liam Squire.
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There’s a couple of familiar faces in the Italian side with New Zealanders Dean Budd and Jayden Hayward in the starting fifteen. Both players began their first class careers in New Zealand in 2008 with Budd as a lock for Auckland and Hayward a utility back for Taranaki. Both players gained Super Rugby experience in New Zealand before making their mark in Italy and gaining national honours.
Despite playing predominantly at fullback for the All Blacks and at Super Rugby level for the Hurricanes, Jordie Barrett says he is looking forward to the opportunity to start on the right wing. “For me it’s about looking for opportunities out wide and getting involved where I can. Nailing little things like the high ball and getting positive gain line are a couple of things I have been focussing on,” said Barrett.
The All Blacks have scored 483 points so far this year, the sixth highest figure in their history. The All Blacks scored more than 500 points in both 2016 and 2017, the first team to do so in consecutive years.
The last time the All Blacks took on Italy in Rome they walked away with a 10-try, 68-10 victory. Since that encounter, Italy have made big strides in their defensive game and will make the All Blacks work hard for any points they put on the board. Last week, Italy starved Australia of scoring opportunities with a rushed defensive screen shutting down much of the Wallabies attack. The final score of 26-7 to Australia could have been much closer had Italy taken a couple of scoring opportunities themselves. Italy are sure to bring plenty of passion, energy and commitment on defence. The All Blacks should have too much fire power for the Azurri but it may not be a repeat of the 10-try trouncing we saw in 2016.
?? All Blacks Kieran Read, Codie Taylor, Dane Coles and Aaron Smith visit the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy. Among some 457 New Zealand Soldiers who are burried here are two All Blacks, George Hart and Jack Harris. Lest We Forget. ???? pic.twitter.com/m7agZXimAL— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 22, 2018TEAMS
All Blacks (caps in brackets):
1. Ofa Tuungafasi (25) 2. Dane Coles (59) 3. Nepo Laulala (16) 4. Patrick Tuipulotu (20) 5. Scott Barrett (28) 6. Vaea Fifita (8) 7. Ardie Savea (34) 8. Kieran Read – captain (117) 9. TJ Perenara (54) 10. Beauden Barrett (72) 11. Waisake Naholo (25) 12. Ngani Laumape (9) 13. Anton Lienert-Brown (32) 14. Jordie Barrett (8) 15. Damian McKenzie (22)
Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris (19) 17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (12) 18. Angus Ta’avao (1) 19. Brodie Retallick (74) 20. Dalton Papalii (1) 21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (2) 22. Richie Mo’unga (8) 23. Rieko Ioane (23)
1.Andrea Lovotti, 2.Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 3.Simone Ferrari, 4.Alessandro Zanni, 5.Dean Budd, 6.Sebasian Negri, 7.Jake Polledri, 8.Braam Steyn, 9.Tito Tebaldi, 10.Tommaso Allan, 11.Luca Sperandio, 12.Tommaso Castello, 13.Michele Campagnaro, 14.Tommaso Benvenuti, 15.Jayden Hayward.
Reserves: 16.Luca Bigi, 17.Cherif Traore 18.Tiziano Pasquali, 19.Marco Fuser, 20.Johan Meyer, 21.Guglielmo Palazzani, 22.Luca Morisi, 23.Edoardo Padovani.
?? COACH'S CORNER | Steve Hansen talks through the All Blacks team selected for the final Test of the year against Italy.