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June Test Gives Italy Chance - Robertson

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Fuseworks Media

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Milan, Nov 12 NZPA - The Springboks rugby mentality from Nick Mallett and the belief from their performance in Christchurch has Italy's Kiwi winger Kaine Robertson daring to dream they can frighten the All Blacks here on Sunday (NZT).

Coach Mallett made just two changes from the side who performed creditably in the All Blacks' 27-6 win in Christchurch in June, both hard-nosed tight forwards who add further steel to the pack.

Prop Martin Castrogiovanni, a 59-test veteran, returns from playing in English club Leicester's upset win over the Springboks last week, while 38-test lock Carlo Antonio Del Fava returns to partner fellow South African Quintin Geldenhuys.

Aucklander Robertson, who will play his 40th test, said the Christchurch performance against an admittedly poor All Blacks was a big mental boost as they take to a packed San Siro for the first time before 80,000-plus fans.

"Most of them have been brought up that way and for the last 5-6 years that's how Italian players go into games, they respect the All Blacks a bit too much," Robertson said.

"In June we came out and had nothing to lose and actually went alright. We're finally getting over it.

"That was the last game we played so it was quite important for us. We changed our look mentally, we defended really well and didn't really wait for them to come and play as we'd done the two previous games. The score was a little bit more respectable."

It was the first time in eight tests between the sides that Italy had kept the margin below 35 points, in their best effort since they held the All Blacks to 31-21 at the 1991 World Cup.

"Personally I've faced them three times and I think it's about 170-20 so hopefully we'll reduce that score a bit."

Former Springboks coach Mallett had helped their belief. It wasn't rocket science to work out Italy's approach, with former league star Craig Gower's educated boot behind a pack led by 65-test veteran captain Sergio Parisse who was suspended for eye-gouging Isaac Ross in Christchurch.

"(Mallett) is bringing the similar gameplan to what South Africa use; get into the opposition half and create errors. Take as many points you can and be concrete in everything we do," Robertson said.

Robertson said the Italians were "pretty pumped" for their first visit to San Siro, with their biggest previous home tests before about 30,000 at Rome's Stadio Flaminio.

But, given the rapturous welcome for the All Blacks in Milan this week, with big crowds attending their trainings and public appearances, Robertson was cautious as to how much home support they'd have.

"It'll be something special, I've never played in front of 80,000 of our own supporters. We've been to Twickenham a few times.

"Over here the All Blacks are the benchmark of rugby, so I'm expecting about 40,000 black jerseys and 40,000 blue jerseys. It won't change too much but the Italians get into the game a lot so it'll be pretty awesome."

Italy: Luke McLean, Kaine Robertson, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco, Craig Gower, Tito Tebaldi, Sergio Parisse (captain), Mauro Bergamasco, Alessandro Zanni, Quintin Geldenhuys, Carlo Antonio Del Fava, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Salvatore Perugini. Reserves: Fabio Ongaro, Ignacio Rouyet, Antonio Pavanello/Josh Sole, Simone Favaro, Simon Picone, Kris Burton, Alberto Sgarbi.


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