PREVIEW: All Blacks v Italy (Rugby World Cup 2023)
All eyes turn to Lyon as the All Blacks square off with Italy in a crunch Pool A clash which could decide the quarterfinal fates of both teams.
MATCH DETAILS: All Blacks v Italy, Friday 29 September, 9pm CET. (Saturday 30 September, 8am NZT)
Won: All Blacks 15, Italy 0
Last time: All Blacks 47, Italy 9, November 6, 2021, Olimpico Stadium, Rome)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Watch: Live on Sky Sport NZ, delayed on Sky Sport Open
The All Blacks started the tournament with a 27-12 loss to host France before bouncing back to defeat Namibia 71-3 in their second game. Italy have picked up two bonus point wins in their opening two games at the Rugby World Cup. In round one, the Kieran Crowley-coached side swamped Namibia 52-8 before overcoming a first half deficit to beat Uruguay 38-17.
BONUS POINT WATCH
With three teams in Pool A now battling for the two playoff spots, bonus points become crucially important for all sides. France sits atop the pool on 13 points with one game remaining against Italy. Italy is in second place on a maximum of 10 points after their two games. The All Blacks are in third place on five points. Whether it is securing a bonus point by scoring four tries or more, or by losing by seven points or less, every competition point will be crucial as the quarterfinalists from Pool A are confirmed next weekend.
The All Blacks have welcomed back blindside flanker Shannon Frizell and second five-eighth Jordie Barrett to the starting line-up, and flanker Sam Cane and prop Tyrel Lomax to the bench for the clash against Italy. Head Coach Ian Foster offered his thoughts on the return of the pivotal foursome to the side. I'm confident with Shannon and Jordie. We've been able to get them in the starting line-up. With Tyrel, there is a good chance for him to get some time under his belt off the bench. We all know how much we rate him. With Sam, he needed to tick a few boxes at the first two training sessions this week, which is why we gave him time to do that, by starting him off the bench."
WHITELOCK’S SPECIAL MILESTONE
Samuel Whitelock is in line to become the most-capped All Blacks Test player in history, after being named in the reserves. If the 34-year-old takes the field, he will surpass Richie McCaw’s record of 148 Test matches for the All Blacks, played between 2001 and 2015. Whitelock is set to reach the milestone 13 years and three months after making his debut for the All Blacks in June 2010. Head Coach Ian Foster remarked: "This is a credit to Sam; he achieves something new every game. He equalled a record last week and will beat it this week. He's got 150 (caps) coming up and then he's got the most capped All Black in World Cups. Every day is a statement of something he's achieving.
CONTINUING RWC HISTORY
The All Blacks and Italy played in the very first Rugby World Cup match in 1987. The first try of the match came via a penalty try, while legendary loose forward Michael Jones became the first player to score a Rugby World Cup try. The All Blacks 70-6 victory that day is still their eighth-largest at a Rugby World Cup and John Kirwan’s length of the field effort has gone down as one of the greatest tries ever scored in tournament history.
All Blacks (caps in brackets):
1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (55) 2. Codie Taylor (80) 3. Nepo Laulala (51) 4. Brodie Retallick (105) 5. Scott Barrett (64) 6. Shannon Frizell (28) 7. Dalton Papali’i (28) 8. Ardie Savea (captain) (77) 9. Aaron Smith (121) 10. Richie Mo’unga (51) 11. Mark Tele’a (6) 12. Jordie Barrett (52) 13. Rieko Ioane (65) 14. Will Jordan (26) 15. Beauden Barrett (118)
Reserves: 16. Dane Coles (88) 17. Tamaiti Williams (3) 18. Tyrel Lomax (27) 19. Samuel Whitelock (148) 20. Sam Cane (90) 21. Cam Roigard (3) 22. Damian McKenzie (43) 23. Anton Lienert-Brown (65)
1 Danilo Fischetti 2 Giacomo Nicotera 3 Marco Riccioni 4 Dino Lamb 5 Federico Ruzza 6 Sebastian Negri 7 Michele Lamaro © 8 Lorenzo Cannone 9 Stephen Varney 10 Paolo Garbisi 11 Montanna Ioane 12 Luca Morisi 13 Juan Ignacio Brex 14 Ange Capuozzo 15 Tommaso Allan
Reserves: 16 Hame Faiva 17 Ivan Nemer 18 Simone Ferrari 19 Niccolo Cannone 20 Manuel Zuliani 21 Toa Halafihi 22 Martin Page-Relo 23 Paolo Odogwu
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