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Preview: Italy v All Blacks

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Sportal.co.nz     16 Nov 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Stadio Olimpico, Sunday, November 18, 03:00 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 - New Zealand 11, Italy 0.

LAST TIME: November 14, 2009 (Milan) - New Zealand 20-6 Italy.

WALKING WOUNDED: New Zealand's injury stocks include utility backs Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith, neither of whom were likely to be starters against Italy but who might have been featured among the reserves. Italy have wing Mirco Bergamasco back after he missed the Tonga game at the weekend due to a muscle injury. Eight changes have been made to Italy's side from the Tongan international.

FORM: Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini shone in a dominant performance by Italy's scrum against Tonga, an effort boosted when Martin Castrogiovanni arrived off the bench for the final quarter. However, frustrations with the back play have seen Luciano Orquera called in at first five for the first time under Jacques Brunel's reign. New Zealand have a completely revamped side and while that will mean cohesion may be lacking there is still enough experience in the side to ensure plenty of concerns for Italy.

WHO'S HOT: Captaincy only seemed to lift No.8 Kieran Read when he led the Crusaders in Super Rugby and it would be difficult to see him failing to repeat the situation now he is leading the All Blacks. Wing Julian Savea's confidence continues to grow and is the only starting survivor from the Scotland triumph. Hosea Gear may be on the right wing but by the end of the home international season he was playing some of his finest rugby. And Aaron Smith is set to unleash his speed on the northern hemisphere, the result should be interesting. Italy's strength is in its front row but with Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu working with rookie Charlie Faumuina the prospects of a fine contest have to be high.

WE THINK: Italy took plenty from its two 2009 Tests against New Zealand when conceding no more than 29 points. However, it is difficult to see the All Blacks being hounded as they were on those occasions and this could result in an even more impressive performance than that achieved last weekend over Scotland.

TEAMS:

Italy1.Andrea Lo Cicero, 2.Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3.Martin Castrogiovanni, 4.Antonio Pavanello, 5.Francesco Minto, 6.Alessandro Zanni, 7.Simone Favaro, 8.Sergio Parisse (captain), 9.Edoardo Gori, 10.Luciano Orquera, 11.Mirco Bergamasco, 12.Alberto Sgarbi, 13.Tommaso Benvenuti, 14.Giovanbattista Venditti, 15.Andrea Masi.

Reserves: 16.Davide Giazzon, 17.Alberto de Marchi, 18.Lorenzo Cittadini, 19.Quintin Geldenhuys, 20.Mauro Bergamasco, 21.Robert Barbieri, 22.Tobias Botes, 23.Luke McLean.

New Zealand 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Ali Williams, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Hosea Gear, 15.Beauden Barrett.

Reserves: 16.Dane Coles, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Ben Franks, 19.Samuel Whitelock , 20.Victor Vito, 21.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22.Daniel Carter, 23.Cory Jane.

REFEREE:Alain Rolland (Ireland)