Sunday, November 08, 2009

All Blacks pressure won't ease in Milan

There will be plenty of changes to the All Blacks for the test against Italy next weekend at a full San Siro but the pressure valve won't be released by the coaches.

The theme for this tour is very much about putting the onus on the players to prove their worth, and assistant coach Steve Hansen says that won't change for the Azzurri.

"I don't think playing Italy at home is an easy test," said Hansen. "It's never been easy in the Six Nations going to Italy and it won't be easy going to Milan with 80,000 people. That atmosphere in itself will create pressure on people.
"What we want to see is how they cope with those pressures. Italy will play a game based around kicking and putting us under pressure through rushing defence.
"We'll see how people cope with those pressures. The good players handle it."

Hansen wouldn't confirm that the likes of Liam Messam, Andy Ellis, Mike Delany, Owen Franks and Luke McAlister would all start against Italy.

"It's possible those guys will get an opportunity," he said. "We want to give everybody an opportunity to play a game without making too many changes.
"We'll see what happens [against Wales] but there will be some changes for Italy."

Hansen said that after the sides' last match-up, where the All Blacks struggled to a 27-6 win in Christchurch in June, "we're looking forward to having a second chance against them".
"They were very good at the basics," added Hansen.

A full San Siro might inspire Italy to further heroics.
"It will be a huge occasion and great atmosphere... Who copes with those pressures best will come out on top."

But Hansen feels the All Blacks are a much better side now than in June. "A lot of those young guys who had their first run that night are feeling more comfortable now.
"And we've got some senior guys back as well."

The sellout crowd for Saturday's match should give Italian rugby a huge fillip. Not since boxer Duilio Loi fought Puerto Rico's Carlos Ortiz for the super-lightweight world title in 1960 have so many people packed out San Siro for anything other than football.

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