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Italians to target set-piece again: Foster

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/11/2016 Angelo Risso

In the land of La Cucina Povera, All Blacks assistant Ian Foster is expecting a steady diet of scrums and lineouts for his side against Italy.

The Kiwi and Italian coaching groups will sit down for a meal together on Thursday evening, as new Italy boss Conor O'Shea looks to pick the brains of a World Cup-winning unit.

Foster was looking forward to a hearty plate of penne arrabbiata, but said his side would find themselves confronted with a whole different type of spice at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

O'Shea, who took over the Italian job in June, had encouraged his troops to deploy their traditional strengths at the set-piece while improving their running rugby.

Gli Azzurri ran Argentina within inches of victory in O'Shea's first game in charge before narrow wins over the US and Canada.

The All Blacks, meanwhile, had looked shorn of confidence at the lineout without traditional locking pillars Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick in last week's loss to Ireland.

Foster expected Italy to imitate Ireland's set-piece onslaught.

"He still seems to want to use the traditional strengths of Italian rugby but he's certainly adding a few other things around the park, so I think there'll be some surprises," Foster said.

"There's going to be some big questions asked through that Italian scrum and lineout drive."

The All Blacks will look to tinker with their squad yet again against the Italians in the hope of bouncing back quickly from their surprise 40-29 defeat in Chicago.

Retallick is expected to return from concussion, and injuries in the midfield might give a chance to Seta Tamanivalu or young gun Rieko Ioane.

A number of senior players might also be rested for next weekend's grudge match with the Irish in Dublin, as the world champions look for revenge.

"Coming off a loss, that hurts but it doesn't necessarily change our attitude about the importance using the resources in our full squad," Foster said.

"The plan is to make sure we go out on the park against Italy with guys who are really fresh and excited to play."

All Blacks legend Sir Brian Lochore, commenting after New Zealand's first loss in 19 games, told Fairfax NZ on Monday the All Blacks had grown predictable.

Foster admitted his side were predictable against the Irish as they struggled to retain the ball, but rejected Sir Brian's accusations.

"We weren't able to paint some pictures we needed to paint," Foster said.

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