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All Blacks wary of Italy

MILAN, Nov 13 – New Zealand coach Graham Henry has been trying to drum home the lessons that should have been learnt from last year's trip to Europe ahead of Saturday's Test against Italy at the San Siro.ALL_BLACKSA massive crowd of more than 80,000 is expected for the game at the football stadium shared by AC Milan and Inter Milan with Henry telling his team to remember Munster.

In normal circumstances, anything other than a New Zealand win, and a hefty one at that, would be a surprise.

They have won all 11 of their previous clashes between the teams, racking up more than 100 points once, more than 70 a further four times and only three times failing to break the 50-point barrier.

But last year they played against Irish province Munster and only narrowly escaped with an 18-16 victory by the skin of their teeth.

That is something Henry doesn’t want to see happen again. Nor does he want a repeat of the listless 27-6 victory the All Blacks recorded over Italy in Christchurch in June.

"We thought we had them ready to play Munster last year but once they get out there it’s all on and they’d never experienced that atmosphere before," he said.

"Some of them may experience that again on Saturday and there’s no substitute for that experience.

"You’ve got to go through it to understand it and the pity last year was that the guys didn’t have another go to put that experience into action.

"So you can’t substitute this experience of these guys playing at this level, in this environment with the passion and support the Italians are going to have out there."

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The feeling was that the New Zealanders froze a year ago in Ireland and with 80,000 Italians screaming against them it will be a test of their character here in Milan.

Henry singled out two players in particular that will have more to prove than most for the All Blacks – flanker Liam Messam and centre Luke McAlister.

"Everyone’s got a point to prove every time they wear the All Blacks jersey but of those particular people, Liam will be very keen to make a point on Saturday," he said.

"He’s a player of immense ability, he played exceptionally well at the level below and he will want to prove to the selectors that he can play equally well at test match level.

"Luke McAlister hasn’t really found his feet since he’s come back from Europe (he spent two years at Sale). He’s had a number of injuries and I think he’ll show on this tour that he will get back to his best and show what he can do.

"It’s important for both people but it’s also important for a lot of people."

Looking at Italy, Henry has singled out one player in particular to watch out for, fly-half Craig Gower, a former Australian rugby league international who has not only switched codes but also international allegiances.

"Obviously it’s great to get an accolade like that but I’m still inexperienced at the moment, I’ve still got plenty of learning to do," said Gower of Henry’s compliment.

"I’m just hoping to improve on Saturday and hopefully get a little more cohesion with the side and hopefully we can acquit ourselves really well for the match."

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The 31-year-old started out as a hooker in rugby league before later moving to half-back.

He played 18 times for Australia before controversially quitting in 2007 to join French Top 14 side Bayonne.

He qualified to play for Italy through an Italian grand-father.



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