Strange as it may seem, this match in Lyon is a must-win for New Zealand.
The All Blacks come into this match third in Pool A, five points adrift of opponents Italy, and a further three behind leaders France. An unthinkable defeat here would leave them facing a pool stage exit for the first time.
Head coach Ian Foster has made nine changes in his starting XV from their 71-3 victory against Namibia. Only Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea, and Beauden Barrett retain their places.
Italy have 10 points from a possible 10 so far, thanks to a 52-8 win over Namibia and a come-from-behind 38-17 victory over Uruguay. But their hard work starts here, first with this match then a final pool encounter with hosts France next Friday at the same venue.
Italy head coach Kieran Crowley has moved Niccolo Cannone to the bench, bringing in Dino Lamb, Stephen Varney and Luca Morisi, while Alessandro Garbisi and Lorenzo Pani drop out of the squad. Tommaso Allan returns to full-back, while Paolo Garbisi moves from inside centre back to his favoured fly-half position.
The Azzurri are brimming with confidence right now – but a win over New Zealand would be a titanic upset.
FIXTURE: New Zealand v Italy
GROUND: OL Stadium, Lyon (58,883)
KICK-OFF: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
History is very much on New Zealand’s side in this fixture. The All Blacks have not lost a match against Italy in the 36 years they have played one another. They were due to meet at Rugby World Cup 2019, but the match was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis, and recorded officially as a 0-0 draw.
These two sides faced one another in the opening match of the very first Rugby World Cup in 1987, at Eden Park. The All Blacks won 70-6.
Craig Green, skipper David Kirk and John Kirwan scored two tries apiece, as New Zealand racked up what was then an international points record. Kirwan’s second, to bring up a half-century of points, remains one of the great solo tries.
Eleven years later, at Rugby World Cup 1999, New Zealand scored 101 points and conceded just three against the same opponents.
KEY TALKING POINT
Can Kieran Crowley – who won Rugby World Cup 1987 with New Zealand – extend his tenure as Italy coach into the knockout phase of the tournament? Beating his former side would be a crowning glory in his coaching career, but it’s a monumental task.
Richie Mo’unga v Paolo Garbisi. Two supremely talented fly-halves going up against one another in a match that’s crucial to the tournament ambitions of both sides? Yes, please.
If he comes off the bench, Sam Whitelock will overtake Richie McCaw as the most capped All Black in test history, winning his 149th All Blacks cap. It will also be his 22nd Rugby World Cup appearance - equalling the record shared by former skipper McCaw, and England’s Jason Leonard.
Matthew Carley (England). No referee has raised his arm to signal a try in the tournament as often as Carley. He has done so 22 times in two matches, refereeing France’s 14-try 96-0 win over Namibia, and Wales’ opening round 32-26 victory over Fiji, which featured eight tries split equally between the sides.
NEW ZEALAND Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Mark Telea; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala; Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett; Shannon Frizell, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea (captain)
Replacements: Dane Coles, Tamaiti Williams, Tyrel Lomax, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Cam Roigard, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown
ITALY Tommaso Allan; Ange Capuozzo, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Marco Riccioni; Dino Lamb, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (captain), Lorenzo Cannone
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Ivan Nemer, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Manuel Zuliani, Toa Halafihi, Martin Page-Relo, Paolo Odogwu