New Zealand v Italy, Christchurch, June 27
McAlister hoping for flying return
June 26, 2009
New Zealand international Luke McAlister talks to the media during a Blues training session, Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand, May 7, 2009
Luke McAlister is expecting some nerves when he lines up for the All Blacks at fly-half © Getty Images

Luke McAlister is expecting some nervous moments as he returns to the All Blacks' starting line-up against Italy in Christchurch on Saturday. McAlister will make his first start since the 2007 World Cup at the now unfamiliar position of fly-half.

He has spent the last two seasons playing at centre for Guinness Premiership side Sale, his previous international caps at No.10 coming against the British & Irish Lions in 2005, Ireland in 2006 and Romania in 2007.

McAlister steps in to the breach after making two replacement appearances in the drawn Test series against France, providing cover for Stephen Donald, who in turn is deputising for the injured Dan Carter.

"It's just getting everything right in my head," he said of his return to the role of playmaker. "Making sure I've got everything prepared going into the game and that we've looked at it Italy-wise, where their strengths and weaknesses are and making sure that I execute everything I can."

The 25-year-old is hoping to channel his nerves in to something positive for the All Blacks, who struggled to bring their backs in to the game in two tight Tests against the French.

"The nerves are definitely there, they are going to be there no matter what. It's just how I channel those nerves and try and make them come out positive," said McAlister. "I think everyone's under pressure, that's just the way New Zealand rugby is and the way the All Blacks are. It's the way you deal with that pressure that's the key. The boys are really supportive. I've come back in and it's like I've never left really in that regard."

With the All Blacks management set to name their Tri-Nations squad following the Test, there will also be focus on prop Wyatt Crockett, one of two debutants alongside winger Lelia Masaga.

"It's an area where we need to know how well he can stand up," All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen said. "We've got to find out if he can play at this level."


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