NZ look to youth to get back on winning track

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 15:37

REACTION: The All Blacks seek to bounce back from a rare defeat by overcoming Italy side in Rome on Saturday.

Last weekend's 29-40 defeat by Ireland in Chicago has raised the stakes for a rematch with the Irish in Dublin on November 19.

But Hansen insisted that had not swayed him from his original plan to send out a youthful, relatively inexperienced XV against a new-look Italy.

"This wasn't about Ireland," Hansen said at the team hotel. "We always had the plan to pick this side. This is the team we thought would be right for Italy and nothing that happened in Chicago has changed that."

The All Blacks have never lost to Italy in 12 previous meetings and new coach Conor O'Shea will also be fielding an inexperienced side for what will be his first home match in charge.

"It will be a tough game," Hansen said. "We have got to improve our performance from last week.

"Whilst it is not the same people playing, it is the same jersey and the same expectation, so this group has got to go out and get back to the type of rugby we want to play and to the standard, we want to play at."
Regular captain and number eight Kieran Read has been rested, as Steven Luatua returns to the side after a two-year absence for a first start in the middle of the back row.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow starts at scrumhalf after impressing for the Maori All Blacks against the US Eagles in Chicago, with Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa coming into midfield.

The loss in Chicago was New Zealand's first to Ireland in 111 years of matches and ended their record run of 18 straight Test victories.

Cane's performance on his return from injury was a rare bright spot and Hansen said the 24-year-old Chiefs forward had earned another chance to display his ability to lead at international level.

"You want him to be calm and assured under the pressure of the game and making sure that the other people around him are responding to his understanding of what is happening.

"And you want him to be using the other leaders in the group to help him get the team to where it needs to get to.

"But he is learning as a leader so it won't be perfect and we don't expect it to be."

Hansen and his coaching staff were due to have dinner with O'Shea in a Roman eaterie on Thursday, underlining the relatively relaxed nature of the build-up to Saturday's match.

The squad had a day off on Wednesday, allowing some of the players to take in sights including the Colosseum while others buzzed around the Eternal City on Segways.

Hansen said he was looking forward to sitting down with O'Shea and potentially passing on some of his World Cup-winning wisdom.

"Coaching is a lonely life and you are under a lot of scrutiny and pressure, so it is nice to share some time with like-minded people," he said.

"Part of our job is also to help where we can without giving away all our secrets. We are not adverse to sharing our ideas, hopefully, they will share some of theirs and we will all have a learning experience."

Hansen's deputy Ian Foster had already got his order in for a plate of penne all'arabbiatta (pasta with a chilli-fired tomato sauce), but the head coach said he would take whatever the Roman chefs had to offer.

"Look at the size of me! I'll eat anything."

Agence France-Presse