All Blacks man­han­dle Italy, look ahead to re­match

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

STAND-IN cap­tain Sam Cane hailed a youth-filled New Zealand af­ter a 68-10 thrash­ing of Italy left the All Blacks poised to avenge their re­cent, stun­ning de­feat to Ire­land in Dublin next week.

Cane, stand­ing in for Kieran Read, who was rested, is emerg­ing as the long-term suc­ces­sor to All Blacks le­gend Richie McCaw fol­low­ing his re­tire­ment one year ago.

If he had any pre-match nerves at a packed Sta­dio Olimpico, which saw New Zealand beat Italy 42-10 on their last visit four years ago when Cane sat on the bench, they were quickly put to bed.

Al­though Steve Hansen opted to make 12 changes fol­low­ing their first loss to Ire­land in 111 years last week in Chicago, a sec­ond-string side proved a class well above the hap­less Ital­ians.

Malaki Fek­i­toa bagged the first of his brace of tries as early as the fourth minute, with man-of-the-match Aaron Cru­den mak­ing the first of seven con­ver­sions to leave Conor O’Shea’s hosts on the back foot early on.

Italy were never given a chance to set­tle, and al­though Tom­maso Boni wowed the crowd with a well-taken try fol­low­ing his in­ter­cep­tion late on the hosts were well and truly out­played, teenager Rieko Ioane de­fi­antly cap­ping his test de­but with a bat­tling, maiden try in the 73rd minute.

“We needed to come back af­ter last week’s de­feat, and we did that,” said Cane, cap­tain­ing New Zealand for the sec­ond time hav­ing done so against Namibia in the 2015 World Cup.

“The way we gelled and kept the score­board tick­ing over through­out the 80 min­utes was re­ally pleas­ing.

“It was great for a num­ber of guys to pull on the jersey for the first time in a wee while, and for a cou­ple of guys to make their de­but was spe­cial for them too.”

As for em­u­lat­ing McCaw, who led New Zealand to a record 97 wins as cap­tain, Cane added, “In terms of com­par­i­son with Richie, I’ve had to deal with that for the first four years as an All Black, so I’ve learned there’s no point try­ing to be him.

“I’m just try­ing to be my­self, play my style and be Sam Cane.”

Hansen brushed off ques­tions about his pos­si­ble se­lec­tion strat­egy next week, but ad­mit­ted the lat­est gen­er­a­tion had given the team’s es­tab­lished stars a run for their money.

“They played par­tic­u­larly well, and I’m happy with that,” said Hansen.

“But the big thing for us is that some guys who haven’t played a lot of rugby for the All Blacks got the op­por­tu­nity to play 80 min­utes, and some guys played their first game.

“It bodes well for next week. We’ve got a lot of guys in form for se­lec­tion. But it bodes even bet­ter for the fu­ture … next year and be­yond.”

One of those play­ers was Cru­den. Hav­ing re­placed Waisake Na­holo at wing last week, Hansen was pleased with the Manawatu fly-half ’s first start since re­turn­ing to the na­tional fray for the first time since ap­pear­ing against Eng­land at Twick­en­ham in 2014.

“He hasn’t played a lot of rugby, so we wanted him firstly to get more match time,” added Hansen.

“Se­condly, to do his core roles re­ally well: his pass­ing, kick­ing, run­ning and or­gan­is­ing, and get back into the flow of rugby again. As the game went on he got bet­ter and bet­ter.”

Italy coach Conor O’Shea now has the task of lift­ing morale ahead of host­ing South Africa for their clash in Florence.

“We don’t like los­ing, but some­times you play against a great side and you have to say when you’re beaten by a bet­ter team,” said the Ir­ish­man.

“I told the lads that if they feel they haven’t put their body on their line for their coun­try, then they couldn’t come to work to­mor­row.

“The easy thing is to be cyn­i­cal, but I tell the play­ers ‘do not hang your head, do not feel sorry for your­self’.”

Photo: AFP

New Zealand’s Matt Todd (left) vies with Italy’s Edoardo Gori dur­ing the one-off Test rugby union match be­tween Italy and New Zealand at Olympic Sta­dium in Rome on Novem­ber 12.

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