Crowley's troops ready for All Blacks challenge
If anyone in the Italy camp knows what to expect from New Zealand in Saturday's (NZT) Rugby World Cup pool game in Lyon, it is Azurri coach and former All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley.
The 19-Test and World Cup winner in 1987 has fashioned a coaching record with Benetton, Canada and Italy and lifted Italy's performance level in recent seasons.
He said, "We're under no illusions about what is coming. They are going to come at us and are going to be aggressive, and they are going to try to intimidate us.
"They'll try to bully us. We have to embrace that challenge."
He was confident with the maturity that has emerged in his squad. They had more confidence in their abilities, backed themselves and were courageous.
"We have no fear. If that is going to be good enough, we will have to wait and see because it is going to be one hell of a battle. We are looking forward to it."
Both teams needed a win to move on to the playoffs. That meant the All Blacks would come hard at them.
But Crowley was looking for a response from his pack, especially those wearing the lowest numbers because if they could get on top, it made it easier for the rest of the side.
Your 23 to face Italy 🖤— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 27, 2023
Samuel Whitelock is set to play his 149th Test Match on Friday night. This will make him the most capped Test player in All Blacks history #AllBlacks pic.twitter.com/9QNTMrtZfv
"We are not going out there to keep the score down. We are going out there to try to win the game.
"Different plans suit different teams. But we are not going to be stupid about how we play. We've looked at how we can put pressure on New Zealand and will attempt to do that in different places.
Crowley didn't think the All Blacks were more beatable than before. He said he had never seen a bad All Blacks team.
"World rugby, at the top level, is getting very close now because everyone is exposed to the same coaching. Everyone is exposed to the same strength and, conditioning and nutrition. All that means is teams are getting very close.
"On their day anyone can beat anyone."
The All Blacks had been ahead of other countries a few years ago but had been caught up.
Crowley said he had named a solid lineout to counter the All Blacks' strength and experience in that area.
Game on! 🇮🇹— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 26, 2023
Before we take on Italy in our next match, predict the final score for your chance to win!#AllBlacks