Preview: Italy v New Zealand

Italy are one from three this November so far ahead of a clash with New Zealand, but after Ireland’s emphatic victory over the All Blacks, the Azzurri go into the match dreaming of an upset for the ages.

Italy are one from three this November so far ahead of a clash with New Zealand, but after Ireland’s emphatic victory over the All Blacks, the Azzurri go into the match dreaming of an upset for the ages.

Not everything went to plan last time out for Conor O’Shea’s men against Australia, but the Italy head coach was clearly impressed enough to only make one change to his side for the Rome showdown.

Benetton wing Luca Sperandio comes into the side to replace Mattia Bellini after the Zebre player picked up an injury following scoring his side’s only try of the match against the Wallabies.

An all-Benetton back three will start in Saturday’s clash with Jayden Hayward and Tommaso Benvenuti lining up alongside 22-year-old Sperandio.

Leonardo Ghiraldini will captain the side once again in the 14th meeting between the two nations.

New Zealand have made a raft of changes themselves ahead of the match with Italy as New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen tests his full squad’s capability.

Skipper Kieran Read, openside flanker Ardie Savea, full-back Damian McKenzie and fly-half Beauden Barrett are the only players who started the 16-9 loss in Dublin who will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico.

All three Barrett brothers are in the starting XV with Jordie picked on the right wing and Scott brought into the second row to hand Brodie Retallick some much-earned rest.

It will be the first time that New Zealand and Italy have faced each other since 2016 and it was the All Blacks that came out on top in Rome with a 68-10 victory.

But the margin of victory has decreased over the years since their first meeting in 1987 at Eden Park, with the Azzurri running out narrow losers in 2009 in a 20-6 defeat.

Italy face New Zealand on Saturday at 2pm (GMT)

What they said:

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea said: “It will be important not to think too much about their potential, especially with teams of this level.

“Our focus will be on our performance. We have shown that when we have so much ambition and we follow the game plan, as happened in the last match of Six Nations against Scotland, the second Test against Japan and in the last game against Australia, we create many dangerous occasions to be able to score points.

“Our mentality must always be that of imposing our game. Last week there was a big step forward in the performance with so many actions in the 22 meters of Australia.

“The path we started two years ago is important. We have a young and promising team that believes a lot in the work we do day after day.

“We want to become a great team for us and for our fans.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said: “The Italians will bring plenty of line speed, with a wide defensive spread, and again allows us to experience playing this type of team.

“They’re big men who play with a lot of passion and pride.

“Our goal will be to create quality set-piece ball and lightning quick ruck ball, coupled with a real accuracy in our decision-making so we can use our skill-sets accordingly.”

Key stats:

– Italy and New Zealand first met in an international in 1987 – New Zealand claimed a 70-6 win on the day. – This is the third time in succession that the two sides have met at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. – New Zealand have only lost three of their last 23 fixtures since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour.

Key battle: Tommaso Allan v Beauden Barrett

With Beauden Barrett riding into town inevitably Italy will have to stump up an almighty performance to nullify the All Black fly-half.

The 27-year-old has been a key figure in both of New Zealand’s last two fixtures – scoring 11 points against England and all his side’s nine points against Ireland.

His opposite number Tommaso Allan has a tough task on his hands to keep up with the flying New Zealander, but seems to have established himself as first choice this year under O’Shea despite competition from Carlo Canna and Ian McKinley.

Allan scored a stunning try in the victory against Georgia, but his kicking game could come in handy with Italy looking to spring a surprise victory.


Italy: 15. Jayden Hayward, 14. Tommaso Benvenuti, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Tommaso Castello, 11. Luca Sperandio, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Tito Tebaldi, 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), 3. Simone Ferrari, 4. Alessandro Zanni, 5. Dean Budd, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Jake Polledri, 8. Braam Steyn

Replacements: 16. Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18. Tiziano Pasquali, 19. Marco Fuser, 20. Johan Meyer, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Luca Morisi, 23. Edoardo Padovani

New Zealand: 15. Damian McKenzie, 14. Jordie Barrett, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 12. Ngani Laumape, 11. Waisake Naholo, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. TJ Perenara, 1. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Vaea Fifita, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read (c)

Replacements: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18. Angus Ta’avao, 19. Brodie Retallick, 20. Dalton Papalii, 21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22. Richie Mo’unga, 23. Rieko Ioane