New Zealand v Italy, Christchurch, June 27
Henry's All Blacks on edge
June 26, 2009

Graham Henry's All Blacks are all set to face Italy in their final Test before announcing their Tri-Nations squad, and despite being the overwhelming favourites there is a definite edge among the squad.

After a faltering Test series against France, levelled 1-1 after last weekend's 14-10 win in Wellington, Henry's charges have to build some momentum despite their injury problems. Lock Ali Williams is the latest senior figure to cast an injury shadow across their preparations, with the 61-Test veteran potentially missing the rest of the season should his Achilles tendon injury require surgery.

"Once they get into that tendon, I'd say it's going to be a long time," Henry said. "However, no decision will be made until Tuesday, then we'll know a way forward. They hope they can rehabilitate it and get it right - we've tried it twice - rather than have an operation. He will have to have some sort of operation, I'd assume."

Williams joins captain Richie McCaw, fly-half Dan Carter, wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, flanker Adam Thomson, centre Conrad Smith and hooker Andrew Hore on the All Blacks' injury list, with the ominous form of South Africa and Australia providing a headache for the management.

Anything but a big win over the Azzurri would put further pressure on the young squad, with a small crowd expected in Christchurch and expectations apparently at a low.

"I've spent considerable time this week thinking about the future and I think we need to do that," said Henry, whose side kick off their Bledisloe Cup defence in Auckland on July 18. "They're always on trial, none of them are complacent enough to think their position is always going to be with the All Blacks. They're all on a bit of an edge. The Tri-Nations squad is announced next Saturday week and they know about that so there's always a bit of an edge on that."

Italy have very little to lose heading into the Test, with their recent losses to Australia providing several positives but also plenty of food for thought for coach Nick Mallett and their outstanding captain and No.8 Sergio Parisse.

"We are not the favourites for this game. We don't have the pressure of the result but for us it's very important to finish this tour well," said Parisse, who has unhappy memories of his side's thumping 76-14 loss to New Zealand at the 2007 World Cup.

"It was a nightmare and we want another chance to play against them," he said. "Sometimes we have a psychological block when we play against them. Sometimes we maybe respect them too much and maybe we don't try to play our game."


Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.