NZ born, but Italian bred

IMPROVING THE ODDS: Kiwi-born Kaine Robertson in training with the Italian rugby team at Rugby Park.
IMPROVING THE ODDS: Kiwi-born Kaine Robertson in training with the Italian rugby team at Rugby Park.

Kiwi-Italian Kaine Robertson is looking to "improve the odds" in his first "home" test against an All Blacks side coached by his good mate's father.

The Aucklander has played his native New Zealanders twice on European soil and quickly calculates the cumulative score.

"One hundred and thirty [points] to about 20," he quipped as he recalled, painfully, Italy's 59-10 defeat in Rome in 2004 and a 76-14 pounding in pool play at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Marseilles.

Robertson, who has scored 12 tries in 38 tests since 2004, was at fullback for the Rome match and on the wing for the Marseilles massacre.

The 28-year-old is a rugby realist. He knows Italy cannot expect to upset the All Blacks "in by far the toughest game" of their Australasian tour.

"It's pretty difficult to win these games," he said, acknowledging the goal was "respectability". The Italians would be "trying to keep our heads high and hope it's a decent score and that we don't get destroyed by 60 points ..."

Robertson hails from Thames but went to Auckland Grammar where he was two years behind former All Black wing Doug Howlett, his track and field rival.

He's a childhood chum of Andrew Henry, whose father Graham will coach the All Blacks against Italy on Saturday.

He played the first test against Australia a fortnight ago but was rested for the second and hoped to get the nod against the All Blacks when coach Nick Mallett named his team tomorrow. "If I get on the field, it will be a great experience. The family's coming down from Auckland on Friday, so that would be great."

The Viadana club veteran feels at home among the Azzurri. He arrived at Viadana as an 18-year-old and has stayed loyal to the Lombardy region team. He will marry his longtime girlfriend, Isabella, in August and the couple "just had our first child [daughter Rebecca] two weeks ago".

Robertson said there were also Argentines, Australians and South Africans in the Italian squad and all said "home is home".

"But I've been there most of my adult life, so I feel pretty much Italian."

Italy set out "to be competitive" in all three tour matches. They lost by 20 points in both games across the Tasman. "We let two tries in at the end last week ... 20-12 would have been a decent score."

He said it was "good to play against stronger teams" because it "does lift your level".

"But, in hindsight, you've also got to play teams you can beat to get a bit of confidence. We haven't had that for two or three years and we won't till after the World Cup."

Robertson has high hopes for the Azzurri's future now former Australian rugby league international Craig Gower is in the first five-eighth hot seat. "He's quite a good attacker and, as an Italian backline, we've always lacked an attacking flyhalf. We do have decent backs. Most of our backs play in the French competition and our centre Gonzalo Canale was in the French club final."

The Press