All Blacks wary of improving Italy in crunch clash
All Blacks assistant coach Jason Ryan said after the side's bye week in Bordeaux, their minds were never far from their Rugby World Cup game with Italy back in Lyon on Saturday (NZT).
Ryan said there had been a physical presence in their training, and he was delighted with the quality of work the players put in.
"I think it's important for this All Black team to change gears. We're leaving Bordeaux a better rugby team with the work we've put in, and we needed to. It's good to get through the week with no injuries, and we look forward to getting to Lyon and preparing for the Test against Italy.
"We got out of it what we needed to, we ran a few different scenarios, put the boys under a lot of pressure in different areas of our game which was good, and we're happy with how we've finished up."
Injured players, flanker and captain Sam Cane, blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, second five-eighths Jordie Barrett and prop Tyrel Lomax tracked well in their respective recoveries. A final assessment of them will be made in Lyon.
"They're all progressing as we needed them to."
The training in Bordeaux had increased the selection pressure for places against Italy.
"That is exactly what we want. It's a big test match for us, there's no doubt about that. The way Italy play, they play really quick, and the breakdown is going to be quite important for us, so that mix [of players] will have to be right. We have to prepare accordingly."
Italy showed in their game with Uruguay how physical and spirited they were, and their intent was clear.
"They're well coached and we're going to have to right on from the start."
Lock Brodie Retallick said training ramped up in Bordeaux. They had needed a day to recover from the work that was done.
"It was actually quite good on Wednesday we got time to do a lot of unit work, scrum, and maul and lineout stuff, and today was more around the team and our gameplay. During normal test weeks, we don't get a lot of time to spend on those sorts of things, so we've got a more well-rounded game now.
The All Blacks were aware of the implications of their game with Italy, he said.
"It's going to be a big game in terms of pool play. They have a very slick attack; the way they pop up outside each other and have forwards running down, we have to be aware there and make good decisions defensively.
"But we also need to get our game right in terms of set-piece and our ball carry to nullify that. So it's not too different to anyone else in terms of how we'll approach it, there's a lot riding on the outcome."
"Italy have shown some massive improvement over the last couple of years, full credit to them, last year when they beat the Wallabies we were all sitting around watching that, and it's awesome to see."