This is the stage of the World Cup where the All Blacks are expected to swap rotation for consistency.

Gone are the short turnarounds and weaker teams, Canada and Namibia, they traditionally belt once every four years.

South Africa embarrassed Italy 49-3 in their last match which was marred by Italian prop Andrea Lovotti's red card. He and fellow loosehead, Nicola Quaglio, subsequently copped three-game suspensions for their nasty spear tackle on Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen, throwing the Italian campaign into disarray.

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But as the quarterfinals loom, the All Blacks will give the Six Nations battlers the same respect they paid the Boks in their opening World Cup victory.

This is why we should see a return to the All Blacks' strongest line up, one that could feature as few as two starting changes to the team that defeated the Boks in Yokohama, not that All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster is giving anything away.

"I am sure but I'm not going to tell you," Foster said when asked if consistent selection would be the theme for the remainder of the tournament.

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World-class players were left at home, and the All Blacks do not lack for healthy internal competition, but cracking the starting team could now prove difficult.

The All Blacks are two, or in some cases three, deep in every position which creates selection debate and disappointment but from, a performance perspective, often inspires.

This year they have been more fluid than previous seasons with selection, leaving greater scope to reward form.

Jack Goodhue of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand training session at Jissoji Tamokuteki Ground on September 28, 2019 in Beppu, Oita, Japan. Photo / Getty Images.
Jack Goodhue of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand training session at Jissoji Tamokuteki Ground on September 28, 2019 in Beppu, Oita, Japan. Photo / Getty Images.

Sevu Reece, George Bridge, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nepo Laulala and Richie Mo'unga have all forced their way into the starting side.

But those on the fringe may now need injuries or dramatic drops in form to alter preferences.

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Of the team that faced the Boks, Brodie Retallick is near certain to push Scott Barrett to the bench and play 60 minutes, following 30 in his return against Namibia.

Chiefs halfback Brad Weber must be applying heat after two impressive cameos off the bench but the All Blacks are likely to favour their established Aaron Smith-TJ Perenara one two punch.

The battle is on for All Blacks, from left, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Angus Ta'avao, TJ Perenara, Shannon Frizell and Kieran Read during warm-up drills. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
The battle is on for All Blacks, from left, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Angus Ta'avao, TJ Perenara, Shannon Frizell and Kieran Read during warm-up drills. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

The main area of interest, as it has been all tournament, will be the midfield.

Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown started the win over the Boks but Sonny Bill Williams and Jack Goodhue both presented compelling cases in their respective starts since.

Weighing those performances – Williams against Canada, Goodhue against Namibia – versus Crotty's creative opening effort is difficult.

"We got challenged in both the Canadian and Namibian games and we had to fight our way through some moments," Foster said. "You're looking at how they're dealing with things mentally but also how they're executing their roles and skills which is regardless of who we're playing.

"We've been pleased with the last two matches. We've had a number of guys who have put their hand up. We've got 31 fit players at the moment who are all pushing so it's not an easy job, but it's a good job."

With Lienert-Brown proving his class at 12 and 13, the choice may be between starting Williams at second-five, or bringing him off the bench, and Goodhue's claims as first-choice centre.

Jack Goodhue and Angus Ta'avao battle it out during warm-up drills at the All Blacks training session in Beppu, Oita, Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Jack Goodhue and Angus Ta'avao battle it out during warm-up drills at the All Blacks training session in Beppu, Oita, Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

The All Blacks will also weigh selecting three openside flankers, which would give Matt Todd the edge on the bench, against the size and strength of Shannon Frizell.

One certainty is they are planning for Italy to be better than everyone else expects.

"There's no doubt they will feel wounded. They've had a lot of disruptions and they've probably had a tricky week balancing ins and outs of players.

"We can only think about what we would feel like in that situation, when everyone is writing you off, and yet when you look at the table they've actually got a chance of making a quarterfinal. They're the facts.

"When you say that out loud, you start to say 'we would be pretty desperate'. We're expecting an Italian team to bring everything they've got because it's a do or die game for them.

"If we don't respect that and understand that degree of desperation that will come then we'll get smacked.

"We've got to rise because everyone else is going to go up a cog. What we've learned is your top players, those are the guys you really need to get a bit more out of when you go into those big matches."

Possible All Blacks team to play Italy:

Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo'unga, George Bridge, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Sevu Reece, Beauden Barrett

Bench: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avo, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Ben Smith