Buck Shelford: Flood of changes as All Blacks team for Italy match named

Episode of: D'Arcy and Goran

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Nov 22, 201810m
Buck Shelford: Flood of changes as All Blacks team for Italy match named
Nov 22 '1810m
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LISTEN TO BUCK SHELFORD TALK WITH D'ARCY AND GORAN ABOVE Eleven starting changes and, yet, there is more continuity to the All Blacks in Rome than many may have expected as they attempt to rebuild self-confidence after a challenging two weeks. The need to continually fix key parts of their attack and kicking game, and the close nature of next year's World Cup, has seen All Blacks coach Steve Hansen resist the urge to get overly experimental for the final test of the season. Hansen said last week's loss to Ireland in Dublin did not influence selection, except that of Brodie Retallick reverting to the bench after signs of fatigue. Captain Kieran Read is again joined by Ardie Savea in the loose forwards, with Dalton Papalii listed to come off the bench. But the most topical selection is the retention of both Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie. While many fringe players are set for a run, Italy appeared the ideal arena to hand Richie Mo'unga his third test start to continue his development. Mo'unga will instead again come off the bench, with Barrett paired alongside Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara and second five-eighth Ngani Laumape, who teams up with Anton Lienert-Brown in a well-balanced midfield. McKenzie at fullback has not been a roaring success on this tour. In his first start at 15 this season he was solid against the Wallabies in Yokohama, and then had some telling touches at Twickenham. But with Ireland's Johnny Sexton peppering the air all night last week, McKenzie endured a difficult evening. For now, the All Blacks are wedded to the belief they need two playmakers - one on either side of the park. They view Barrett and McKenzie best placed to perform these duties and will, therefore, give them every opportunity to improving decision-making under pressure. "You've got to add Richie to that combination - they're the three guys that we see at the moment that would most likely go to the World Cup so getting those three combining at the beginning or during the course of the game is important," Hansen said. "We haven't got too many games left so the more we play them together the better it'll be." The other intriguing element of this team is that of Jordie Barrett on the right wing – a nod, perhaps, to a role he may be asked to fill more next year after struggling to take his chances at fullback. In the Israel Dagg mould, Jordie Barrett certainly has the size and aerial skills to succeeded at No 14. His long-range goal kicking is another asset. Other talking points include Waisake Naholo's return from the wilderness after disappointing in his last starts against Japan and Argentina. Vaea Fifita also gets first crack at delivering the required physical presence when replacing the injured Liam Squire at six. Dane Coles, in just the second test start of his frustrating year blighted by injuries, headlines a new front row and locking combination which will be keen to make their mark after Ireland exerted rare dominance on the All Blacks scrum last week. Nepo Laulala made a big impression off the bench in stabilising this area and now gets a chance to replicate those efforts from the outset. While Italy won't be expected to cause a major boilover and should, in theory, offer a chance to regain attacking fluidity, Hansen outlined why finishing the year strongly is imperative after two humbling weeks in London and Dublin. "It's important for the self-belief of the team. They're still hurting a lot from last week and it's important because there'll be a lot of people making a lot of noises externally and whilst everyone is strong enough not to get affected by that, if it goes on and on and on eventually somebody will and you don't need that either. "Italy are a team that can hurt you if you don't get it right. They put Australia under a lot of pressure. Their last three or four games they've had an intercept try. They're trying to do things that are out of the ordinary so we'll have to turn up and make sure we dictate the...

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