All Blacks not expecting easy ride in Rome

TOBY ROBSON IN ROME
Last updated 13:52 14/11/2012
Victor Vito
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HIGH ALERT: Victor Vito says the All Blacks forwards will have their hands full with a strong Italian pack.

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Victor Vito might have been stretching things a little when he elevated Italy's set piece to the best in the northern hemisphere, but his point was well made.

The All Blacks do not expect the Azzuri to be push-overs up front when the sides meet at Stadio Flaminio on Sunday and are affording them their due respect.

That has already included plenty of analysis and, according to the All Blacks coaching staff, the statistics place Italy's scrum and lineout at the top of the Six Nations heap.

England and France would probably debate the issue, but there is no doubt the Italian forward pack are a very capable unit that has the All Blacks full attention.

"They're the best set piece side in the northern hemisphere and they deserve our respect, so we'll be doing our analysis on them," Vito said.

"There's a lot of expectation put on us to perform out there and it's about us bringing it back on ourselves and the goals we want to achieve.           

"That doesn't mean being naïve and not analysing the opposition. If anything that's a big part of it, but it's about finding that drive. It will be the same sort of approach we take to Italy."

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster concurred and said the score-line in Italy's 28-23 win over Tonga did not do them justice.

"We have watched the game. I think the Italians were a little bit rusty. They've had a bit of a break from international rugby, but again they showed their clear strengths when they needed to."

That was certainly the case against Tonga where with rookie prop Lorenzo Cittadini's man of the match award summarised his team's approach.

Foster clearly expects similar, but believes Italy have added "adventure" to their style over the past year and are evolving into a more complete side.

"The beauty about rugby is countries play different styles and some things have been ingrained in Italian rugby," he said. "Particularly scrum, lineout, the physical components of rugby they are very good at. They always have been and probably always will be, but I've been impressed in the last 12 months they seem to be trying to grow the attack part of the game.

"They are traditionally a scrum, nine-ten kick sort of team, but certainly aren't now so they are showing good signs."

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He scoffed at the suggestion Italy would be going out to keep the score down against the All Blacks.

"I think they'll go out there and try to win to be honest. They'll be looking at ways they can put us under pressure.

"Clearly they have strengths in the physical area they can go to, but I can't see them taking a step back from the width they've been playing with in 2012 and it's probably part of a bigger plan. Hopefully that's the way the game goes."

- Stuff

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