“New Zealand are the Everest of Rugby”, according to Italian coach Jacques Brunel who was speaking at a press conference today.
Italy welcome the world champions to the Stadio Olimpico this Saturday in what will surely prove a hard day at the office for the Azurri. These two countries have met 13 times and New Zealand have won on every occasion. As well as this, New Zealand are unbeaten in their last 18 test matches.
“For us it will be an important game to find out what our level is against the strongest team in the world, whether we are far from them or close”, said Brunel.
Italy make 8 changes to the team that beat Tonga 28-23 including the return of winger Mirco Bergamasco and a first cap for back-row Francesco Minto.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has made 14 changes to the side that ran riot at Murrayfield last week. It seems as if he will keep his promise of giving every player on his 32 man squad game time.
Richie McCaw will not feature and Dan Carter will warm the bench but it remains a fearsome side that will take to the field in Rome. Kieran Read captains at number 8 while Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Conrad Smith are all primed to start.
Scotland did manage 22 points against world rugby’s traditional powerhouse which will give the Italians hope for their prospects on Saturday, but even if New Zealand played at 75% they will have far too much for the Sergio Parrise and company.
The spectre of Adam Thompson’s potential banning extension could disrupt operations at camp New Zealand this week though, as the powerful forward’s current one match ban has cause outrage across much of the United kingdom.
Thompson was deemed to have stamped on Scotland’s Alasdair Strokosch.
Prediction: New Zealand to win with 20 points to spare, so may be Italy+30 with Boylesports at 10/11 is worth a bet
Italy: Andrea Masi; Giovambattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenutti, Alberto Sgarbi, Mirco Bergamasco; Luciano Orquera, Edoardo Gori; Andrea Lo Cicero, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Martin Castrogiovanni, Atonio Pavanello, Francesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni, Simone Favaro, Sergio Parisse (capt). Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Alberto de Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Robert Barbieri, Tobias Botes, Luke Mclean.
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Ali Williams, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Same Cane, Kieran Read (capt). Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Ben Franks, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Cory Jane.