Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks runs through a training
session at Stadio Tre Fontane di Roma in Rome, Italy. Photo
Young men clad in black made gold history for New Zealand
in Rome, and 52 years later it is the turn of the modern
At the same, but remodelled, venue tomorrow, the All Blacks
will search for the gilded rewards Peter Snell and Murray
Halberg claimed with their Olympic victories inside a
glorious hour at Stadio Olimpico.
For rising All Black talent Beauden Barrett there is another
link, with his parents' farm just 15 minutes north of Snell's
birthplace in Opunake, where his statue was unveiled three
"The locals are very proud of our links with Snell and it
will be great to play in the stadium where he achieved such
fame. It means a lot to the All Blacks and New Zealand I'm
sure to be connected with such great athletes," he said.
If the All Blacks produce a golden hour of rugby against
Italy they may give the selectors an extra thought about the
side they want to put out against the defending Six Nations
champions, Wales, next weekend.
That is unlikely. It might require a further injury or two
for Steve Hansen to reassess his senior combination.
They have done the business for the bulk of this year.
There have been glitches, two narrow escapes and some
resounding rugby. They were still developing their new style
and that took patience.
Fullback Israel Dagg is one of the many key planks in the new
structure and while he has recovered well from his heavy
landing in Edinburgh, who knows what might happen at
Barrett will showcase his fullback talents for the team
against Italy tomorrow in what should at least be an audition
for the bench.
"It's my first start in the All Blacks and it's exciting with
the No 15 jersey on, especially with the wings we have and
all the talent in front of me," he said.
"They will kick a lot, they are a bit unpredictable with that
too, chip kicks, box kicks and mixing it up, so we will have
to be on our toes.
"There could be plenty of opportunities to attack, plenty of
running I'd say."
The All Black management want their side to express
themselves in much the way the squad opened their tour of
Europe with such a decisive win against Scotland.
This is the stage for men such as Julian Savea and Hosea Gear
to audition for a repeat start next week and a reconnection
time for Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu.
A team spine of new captain Read and Aaron Smith kicks into
gear as Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu suit up for front row
Then there are the subplots with first five-eighths Aaron
Cruden ready to remind us he is the backup to Dan Carter and
has a game which is suited to internationals as much as he
dazzles in Super rugby.
"I suppose it is a little different," Cruden said. "In this
team everyone knows their role and you are just expected to
go and do your job and that's the same for me.
"But 10 has to be the director and lead the boys around the
paddock and that is going to be a big focus for me."
He will be very familiar with men around him as he is
shoehorned back into test rugby between his old Manawatu
halfback buddy Smith and men like Nonu from his time with the
There will be challenges for everyone, tasks they have been
set and will be marked against. Those duties will vary and
will carry individual and collective markers.
This test in Rome will be an occasion.
The ancient city offers many wondrous sights and the All
Blacks have soaked those up.
It is their turn now to delight both regular and new patrons
as Lazio and Roma do with their soccer.
- by Wynne Gray of the NZ Herald