Italy defiant ahead of contest with Rugby Union powerhouse All Blacks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 3:04am


New Zealand have made sweeping changes to the side that beat Scotland 51-22 last week, but what some may see as a charitable move has not been designed to give the hosts a fighting chance in Rome.

When it comes to Italy, still an emerging rugby power, and the All Blacks, two-time world champions and the most successful national team to have graced the sport, there really is no contest.

Italy have lost all 11 previous encounters beginning with a 70-6 reverse in the 1987 World Cup to a far tighter 20-6 test defeat at Milan's San Siro stadium in 2009.

Yet their record, and the fact the Azzurri fought their way to an edgy 28-23 win over minnows Tonga last week, has not dimmed the hopes of Italy coach Jacques Brunel.

"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 yesterday. "Otherwise we're better off staying in the comfort of Mont Blanc."

Kieran Read has notably been handed the captain's armband for the first time after World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw was rested, while star pivot Dan Carter is on the bench in favour of understudy Aaron Cruden.

Liam Messam has been called in at blindside flanker to replace Adam Thomson.