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Aussie McLean lives La Bella Vita

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Plenty of Aussie kids grow up dreaming of scoring the winning try against the All Blacks at a packed-out stadium.

Not so many, however, have the chance to do so in the blue jumper of Italy.

Luke McLean is one such person, after the Benetton Treviso ace defected to Gli Azzurri in 2008 and went on to win more than 80 caps for his adopted homeland.

The Queenslander, who qualifies for Italy through an Italian grandmother, will line up at second-five against the All Blacks on Saturday as his side chases a maiden win over the Kiwis.

He told NZN there was no greater test than taking on the world champions, regardless of last week's surprise 40-29 defeat to Ireland.

"They've pretty much given 40 points to all the teams in the southern hemisphere so it'll be a great challenge, they're the benchmark," the 29-year-old McLean said.

"The coaches have a really simple game plan for what they want of me, so I'm just there to help out the No.10 and whatnot."

Gli Azzurri have struggled in recent seasons on the Test stage, earning the wooden spoon in two of the last three Six Nations and falling out in the 2015 World Cup group stage.

But the appointment of Irish coach Conor O'Shea has stoked hopes of a rugby revival on the peninsula, as the ex-Test fullback looks to revolutionise the local game.

McLean said O'Shea had restored confidence to a playing group battered by repeated losses at club level with Pro12 outfits Benetton and Zebre.

"They've given us a structure that they want us to stick to but within that structure they're trying to really make us express ourselves," McLean said.

"There's a lot of life being thrown back into Italian rugby and all the boys are really excited to rip in."

McLean has lived in Il Bel Paese since his arrival at Eccellenza club Calvisano in 2007, barring a short stint at English club Sale.

And although he hoped to return Down Under at some stage, he had no intention of leaving Italy without stamping his mark long-term.

"Hopefully we can do well to try and get some momentum, get the fans back involved because when the results don't come people start jumping off the bandwagon," McLean said.

"It's got a lot of attractive things, Italy, lots of people come here to holiday because of the place it is, lifestyle-wise it's amazing."

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