Kieran Read. Photo by Getty
Kieran Read, as has been widely speculated, will indeed
captain the All Blacks in their test against Italy on Sunday
His confirmation as captain carried as little surprise as the
overall make-up of the starting team which became relatively
easy to guess given the stated desire to provide all 32
members of the tour with significant game time in the first
By a process of elimination following the test in Scotland,
it was apparent how the team to play Italy would shape up
with the only possible doubt hanging over the make up of the
The final mix is intriguing with Julian Savea being picked on
the left wing, Hosea Gear on the right and Beauden Barrett at
The trio have played together for the Hurricanes in 2011 but
the interesting part is the switch of flanks. Savea has
extensive experience on the right having played there for the
New Zealand Under-20s. Gear has predominantly been used on
the left throughout his time with the Hurricanes, Highlanders
and All Blacks.
But All Black assistant coach Ian Foster and head coach Steve
Hansen have analysed Gear's game closely and have hit on the
theory that the giant wing is better suited to operating in
the No 14 jersey.
"We were always going to play those two guys [Gear and
Savea]," says Hansen. "We haven't had that luxury this year.
We have always had the feeling that we have needed Cory
[Jane] out there for that experience.
"Julian and H [Gear] have had quite a bit of rugby together
now and it is time to see whether they can play as a
partnership. We think the right side might suit H better than
"Some of the stuff we have seen him do and when he does his
drills he seems to naturally be able to beat people on the
right-hand side. It is just a gut-feeling. He's comfortable
playing there and he'll give it a crack."
The original thinking was that Ben Smith would slot in at
fullback but he has been ruled out due to a broken cheekbone
- paving the way for Barrett to jump off the bench where he
would be covering first-five and start wearing No 15.
The challenge has been put to this side that they have the
opportunity to push for starting places in the final two
tests. Hansen was clear before the tour party left that
selection for the games against Wales and England would be
based on form.
He noted a number of players delivered quality efforts
against Scotland and the the likes of Aaron Smith, Liam
Messam, Ali Williams, Brodie Retallick and Tony Woodcock will
be conscious of the need to perform.
All Blacks team to play Italy at Stadio Olimpico, November
17: Beauden Barrett, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu,
Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read
(captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Ali Williams, Brodie
Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Sam
Whitelock, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Daniel Carter,
- By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Rome