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All Blacks hope for positive attitude from Italy this time

Published: 8:59PM Saturday November 17, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Only in Italy could a prop be a poster boy, but fairly or not, Martin Catrogiovanni stole the All Blacks' thunder in Milan three years ago.

The wily front rower did his level best to disrupt the tourists during their 20-6 victory on that occasion and as they approach tomorrow morning's Test in Rome, the New Zealand team hope this contest will be played in a more positive spirit.

"I wouldn't say they were negative in that game, but it helps when two teams are really playing," reflects centre Conrad Smith. "I think the Italian team do play a lot more expansively that they did back then, so I think that will help the game."

With stars Richie McCaw and Dan Carter on the sidelines this week, Smith will be Kieran Read's vice captain and with midfield partner Ma'a Nonu, he intends attacking from the whistle.

"If they get an edge over us or feel like they've got a bit of ascendancy in the game, you know we'll have a real fight on our hands," he says. "So that's our job - to take that out of the equation.

"We're fully aware that it could be a long day if we don't get on top early."

A sell-out crowd at Stadio Olimpico provides a rare opportunity for the home team to show some class. Italy has only played a handful of Tests here - this stadium is normally reserved for the roundball code. It holds about 73,000 spectators and if you took every single registered rugby player in this country from the age of five up, they'd only just fill it.

That's less than half the number of players in New Zealand from a population 15 times bigger, so their game needs some homegrown heroes. Italian captain Sergio Parisse promises to give the crowd something to cheer about.

"We gonna continue to respect our plan, continue to put the teams on pressure, with our strength, so scrums and mauls," explains Parisse. "But, for sure, we're going to try and play expansive rugby and try to involve more our backs."

In Italian, he wished Read good luck with the "grave responsibility" of leadin the All Blacks out. Read's a shade shorter and the same weight as his counterpart and some say their clash will pit the world's two best No 8's against each other.

"I know he's a man who's got some great skills and certainly a talented No 8," says Read. "It's awesome to have a challenge like that, I guess."

You seldom hear the All Blacks talk about marking individuals - they play a team game and Italy will need all 23 of its players to give them one tomorrow.

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