Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Foster wary of Italian threat

Italy are the best set-piece side in Europe, according to All Blacks assistant Ian Foster (left). Photo / Getty Images.
Italy are the best set-piece side in Europe, according to All Blacks assistant Ian Foster (left). Photo / Getty Images.

Italy looked a rusty side in their return to test rugby against Tonga but one warning shone through for their next outing against the All Blacks.

When they needed to settle their game they showed they were still the best set-piece side in Europe, according to All Blacks assistant Ian Foster.

He and the touring brains trust had analysed clips of their next opponent and been impressed by some of the work they had achieved.

"They are trying a little more adventure," Foster observed.

However they remained a side with a strong reliance on No 8 and captain Sergio Parisse and his halves who ran most of the team plays.

When the pressure came on, like most sides they resorted a bit to type. That was only natural when teams felt more pressure and looked to use patterns which were ingrained.

"I think they will try and run rather than looking to keep the score down," Foster added.
Italy had very compact lineout and scrum formations and knew how to defend, now they were looking to add more to their game.

Experienced All Black Ali Williams will find his core skills strongly tested by Italy as he looks to return to test rugby after the mid-year knee operation which slowed his latest comeback.

He was in a boisterous mood yesterday as he eyed his return at a stadium now called the Stadio Flaminio, where Murray Halberg and Peter Snell claimed double Olympic gold in 1960.

It was a chance to see if the alternate All Blacks could raise the mark and challenge the teammates who had opened so well against Scotland.

"It's no secret what the jersey means to me," Williams said.

It will also be a special moment for Kieran Read who will lead the side though Williams did not expect him to change his game or indeed need to.

Like Richie McCaw, Read would not say too much. They were similar players but very different people, Williams said as he left the media chuckling as he mentioned, "one's got a steady relationship and one doesn't."

Neither of the backup midfield pair, Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith will be available this weekend and it is unclear whether they will be fit again on tour.

Ellison has ligament damage in a toe while Smith has a small fracture in his cheek with the medical staff saying they will have a better idea of their playing chances next week.

Adam Thomson's tour fate will be decided when he fronts a judicial hearing tomorrow (Thursday am) at Heathrow Airport into his reckless bootwork on Scottish flanker Alasdair Strokosch.

- NZ Herald

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