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Italy defence coach Marius Goosen admits they have no chance of beating All Blacks

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New Zealand may not be rugby’s dominant force as they once were but beating them remains more a fanciful dream than a realistic possibility, Italy’s defence coach Marius Goosen said on Tuesday.

Italy have earned many plaudits recently for a marked upturn in performances and results.

Last year, they beat Australia for the first time and also broke new ground in winning away to Wales.

New Zealand, on the other hand, come into Friday’s Rugby World Cup Pool A clash in Lyon at an all-time low of fourth in the world rankings and having lost a pool stage match for the first time in their history, when hosts France beat them 27-13 in the tournament’s opening match.

But South African Goosen said that does not make an Italy victory any more likely on Friday.

“I’m not going to talk about beating them. If you look at the last 16 games Italy played against them, there was a 50-point difference on average,” said Goosen.

“So it’s ludicrous from us to stand here and say we’re going to go in there and win the game.”

This will actually be the 16th meeting between the two sides, with all 15 previous ones won by New Zealand.

Their record victory over Italy was a 101-3 thrashing during the 1999 World Cup, just eight years after Italy got the closest they have in the series, losing 31-21 at the 1991 World Cup.

But in the last four meetings between the sides, New Zealand have racked up a total of 223 points.

“We know that they’re going to put us under an immense amount of pressure and we have to handle that pressure and then find our own ways to put them under pressure,” Goosen told AFP at Italy’s training base in east-central France.

“For us, it’s important to grow into the game and stay close to them if we can. If we get to the 60-minute mark and we’re still in the game, then they’re going to feel the pressure, there’s no doubt about it.”

‘Still New Zealand’

Despite New Zealand’s relatively poor recent results — they have lost three of their last four matches against Ireland, their last two to France and were beaten by a record score by South Africa last month — they maintain a certain aura, according to centre Juan Ignacio Brex.

Asked if New Zealand present a less daunting challenge than in previous years, Argentina-born Brex said: “That could be a general impression but for me they are still and always have been New Zealand.

“Even if they’re not number one in the world, they are in the battle for the number one spot, so you always have to keep an eye on them.”

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Italy have won their opening two Pool A matches against Namibia and Uruguay.

If they were to beat the All Blacks for the first time, they would create history in a number of ways.

They have never before won more than two pool stage matches, nor reached the knock-out stages.

Victory over New Zealand would change both of those records.

AFP

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