Italy

Read leads NZ side with 14 changes

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 06:33
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The team last week put a stake in the ground
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Kieran Read will captain the All Blacks for the first time in Saturday's Test against Italy, after coach Steve Hansen opted to rest World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw in a radically revamped team.

With Hansen intent on giving all his 32-man squad a run in the opening two Tests of New Zealand's European tour, Julian Savea was the only player from the starting XV that beat Scotland 51-22 last week to be retained in the run-on side.

McCaw was left out of the match-day squad entirely, handing over the captain's armband to Read in the loose forward's 46th Test.

Star pivot Dan Carter was named on the bench in favour of understudy Aaron Cruden.

Hansen described Read, 27, as "a genuine leader" and pointed out the overhauled team was still vastly experienced even without McCaw and Carter, boasting a combined 534 Test caps in the starting line-up and 219 on the bench.

Liam Messam was called in as blindside flank to replace Adam Thomson, who was ruled out after receiving a one-match ban for stamping on the head of Scotland loose forward Alasdair Strokosch at Murrayfield.

Veteran lock Ali Williams, keen to re-establish his credentials after a forgettable Super Rugby season with the Blues, comes into the second row, alongside Brodie Retallick, who replaces Sam Whitelock.

With the experimental centres pairing of Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith that faced Scotland unavailable due to injuries, Hansen turned to the experienced combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Injury also forced the bruised Israel Dagg into the reserves, opening the way for Beauden Barrett to earn his fourth cap.

Hansen said he was expecting a torrid Test against Italy in front of a sold-out crowd at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, particularly in the forwards, and he wanted an improved performance from the Scotland Test.

"We were happy with our performance last weekend against Scotland, but also knew there were areas for improvement ahead of the Italian Test and we have been working on getting that right this week," the coach said.

"The team last week put a stake in the ground and while the performance was nowhere near perfect, there was some quality rugby played," he added.

"There is now an opportunity for this group to build on that.

"We are expecting another torrid Test against the Italians in front of their passionate fans. They are renowned for their forward play so they will certainly be up for the challenge and we will have to match that physicality. The team is excited about playing in front of the sold out crowd of 80-thousand and this will only add to their motivation."

New Zealand have won all 11 of their previous meetings with Italy, who struggled to an unconvincing 28-23 victory against Tonga last Saturday.

The All Blacks are undefeated in 18 games and have not lost a Test on a Northern Hemisphere tour since 2002 when England defeated them 31-28.

After Saturday's Test, they play Wales on November 24 and England on December 1.

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Dan Carter, 23 Cory Jane.

Date: Saturday, November 17
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT; 02.00 Sunday, November 18 NZ time)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Peter Allan (Scotland)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

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