Italy ring changes for All Blacks 'Everest' test
ROME (AFP) –
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made eight changes to the side that beat Tonga 28-23 last week ahead of taking on rugby’s “Everest” side in New Zealand’s All Blacks here Saturday.
Italy have suffered defeat to the All Blacks in all 11 of their previous encounters but Brunel is hoping his best available team can provide a stiffer challenge to the reigning world champions at the Olympic Stadium.
“If New Zealand are the Everest of rugby, we must be ready to climb as far and as high as we can and make light of the cold and bad weather,” Brunel said Friday.
“Otherwise we’re better off staying in the comfort of Mont Blanc.”
In the backs Tommaso Iannone, who made his debut at right wing last week, makes way for Giovambattista Venditti while Mirco Bergamasco, who has been nursing a sore back, returns at left wing for Luke McLean.
Luciano Orquera comes in at fly-half for Kris Burton with Edoardo Gori reclaiming the scrum half position from Tobias Botes, who is also among the replacements.
Among the forwards Simone Favaro replaces Robert Barbieri at openside flanker while Francesco Minto takes Joshua Furno’s place in the second row to feature for the first time against New Zealand.
Antonio Pavanello replaces Quintin Geldenhuys at second row while tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni, a late replacement in last week’s edgy win over Tonga, starts in place of Lorenzo Cittadini.
Although New Zealand beat Scotland 51-22 at Murrayfield last week, coach Steve Hansen has rung the changes.
Kieran Read will captain New Zealand for the first time after Hansen rested World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw, while star pivot Dan Carter was named on the bench in favour of understudy Aaron Cruden.
Liam Messam was called in as blindside flanker to replace Adam Thomson, banned for one match for stamping on the head of Scotland loose forward Alasdair Strokosch.
Veteran lock Ali Williams comes in at second row alongside Brodie Retallick, who replaces Sam Whitelock.
With the experimental centres pairing of Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith that faced Scotland unavailable due to injuries, Hansen turned to the experienced combination of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Injury also forced the bruised Israel Dagg into the reserves, opening the way for Beauden Barrett to earn his fourth cap.
Hansen said he was expecting a torrid Test against Italy, particularly in the forwards, and he wanted an improved performance from the Scotland Test.
“The team last week put a stake in the ground and while the performance was nowhere near perfect, there was some quality rugby played,” he said.
“There is now an opportunity for this group to build on that.”
The All Blacks are undefeated in 18 games and have not lost a Test on a Northern Hemisphere tour since 2002, when England defeated them 31-28.
After Saturday’s Test, they play Wales on November 24 and England on December 1.
Italy, meanwhile, next face Australia in Florence next week, and Brunel added: “Australia is also important for us but we have to find out how much ground we need to make up by testing ourselves against the best in the world.
“Every game is different, but to put New Zealand in trouble we have to be in the game.
“The last time I faced the All Blacks, as an assistant coach of France, we won. I hope to experience more of the same.”
Italy team to face New Zealand (15-1)
Andrea Masi; Giovambattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Mirco Bergamasco; Luciano Orquera, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse, Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni; Francesco Minto, Antonio Pavanello; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Robert Barbieri, Tobias Botes, Luke McLean
New Zealand 15-1
Beauden Barrett; Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Ali Williams; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock
Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Cory Jane