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All Blacks thrash Italy in Rome

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/11/2016 Angelo Risso

After a brief lull, the All Blacks are back in business thanks to a resounding 68-10 victory over Italy in Rome.

Surprise losers against Ireland last week in Chicago, the world champions dominated from first minute to last over a gallant but vastly inferior Italian outfit, nabbing 10 tries to one.

The side also made close to 600 metres more with the ball in hand and a devastating 13 line breaks, cutting the Italian defence open at will.

Head coach Steve Hansen named an experimental line-up for the match in the hope of keeping his key troops fresh, and was satisfied with what he saw from his fringe players. 

It will now fall upon a more senior matchday 23 to produce a similar performance next week in Dublin, as they seek revenge against Ireland.

"It bodes well for next week, we've got a lot of in-form people for selection, and even better, it bodes well for the future," Hansen said.

Midfielder Malakai Fekitoa opened the scoring in the fourth minute after getting on the end of an offensive scrum play, before Italy hit back with a penalty goal.

But the All Blacks nabbed their second when Scott Barrett helped tighthead Charlie Faumuina to barge over in the 12th minute.

Prodigious fullback Damian McKenzie looked lively in his first Test start, neutralising the Italians' oft-deployed kicking game, while playmaker Aaron Cruden was an assured presence.

  Israel Dagg of the New Zealand All Blacks scores a try during the international rugby match between New Zealand and Italy at Stadio Olimpico on November 12, 2016 in Rome, Italy. © Getty Images Israel Dagg of the New Zealand All Blacks scores a try during the international rugby match between New Zealand and Italy at Stadio Olimpico on November 12, 2016 in Rome, Italy.

Cruden, who has fallen behind Beauden Barrett in the pecking order in 2016, had impressed Hansen by nailing his kicking and running game.

The Chiefs co-skipper had also provided solid leadership alongside stand-in skipper Sam Cane.

"As the game went on he got better and better, and we're happy with where he's at," Hansen said.

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu grabbed his side's third when the Kiwis made good yardage with a driving maul, before Israel Dagg skipped over on the back of an Anton Lienert-Brown driving maul.

A further lunging effort from prop Wyatt Crockett sent the Kiwis into the sheds with a commanding 35-3 lead, before Steven Luatua, Fekitoa and Elliot Dixon threatened a cricket score.

The Azzurri gave their fans something to cheer with a breakaway Tommaso Boni try in the 67th minute, before debutant Rieko Ioane and winger Waisake Naholo again silenced the crowd and finished off the 58-point drubbing.

Hansen said the onus was on those seen against Italy to develop into All Blacks regulars and put down a marker for the future. But he wouldn't be drawn on his squad selection for next week in Dublin, saying only that he saw enough to change his calculations.

"We've got 18 new players from last year's World Cup squad," Hansen said. "The expectation within the All Blacks is always that the next generation is better than the one before."

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