Rugby World Cup: The one big takeaway out of the All Blacks' big win

2:37 pm on 30 September 2023
Aaron Smith heads for the try line in the All Blacks' Rugby World cup pool clash with Italy.

Aaron Smith heads for the try line in the All Blacks' Rugby World cup pool clash with Italy. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/

Analysis - Jeepers, that was something. The All Blacks' ruthless 96-17 demolition of hapless Italy this morning should have come with an age-restricted warning, such was the ferocity of their intent. This really felt like the sort of performance that had a bit of feeling behind it, like they were making up for lost time after some patchy form leading in.

There were more than a few of us who had pegged this one as a potential banana skin, given the loss at Twickenham to the Springboks and the opening World Cup result against France. We would have done well to put the All Blacks' record against Italy at the forefront of our minds - the average score between the two going into this match was 55-9 to the All Blacks and that's only gotten worse by about 10am this morning.

The All Blacks didn't just avoid the banana skin, they may as well have hired a private jet to fly over the top of it.

Will Ian Foster be getting carried away with this, as a quarter final with Ireland looms? Almost certainly not, but it's worth giving the All Blacks their dues because the beer will be tasting pretty good right now. This could have easily turned into the sort of mudfight that has unfortunately often occurred between these two sides, but the start made by the All Blacks made sure that wasn't going to happen.

Will Jordan's opener was the result of immense pressure that shocked the Italians into backpedalling into their 22, conceding a penalty advantage and leaving enough space out wide for the now obligatory kick pass by one of the Barrett brothers. Jordan's finish may have been inspired by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's acrobatics this season for the Warriors, but Aaron Smith decided to score a cheeky try off the lineout drive next.

While that probably annoyed Codie Taylor, as that's his department, it rocked whatever confidence was left in the Italians out of their appropriately white jerseys.

By halftime they were standing under their own posts five more times, twice as a result of Smith. 49-3 at the break wasn't just looking like Mt Everest for Italy, because they may as well have been at the bottom of the Mariana Trench while doing so.

The bench was then emptied and Dalton Papalii showed great hands to score a deserved try off a Mark Telea break. It was just reward for the flanker, whose blue collar work had laid much of the foundations for the previous tries. Just what his future role is in the campaign will be interesting.

The All Black coaching staff certainly were enjoying every bit of it, with smiles and high fives all round. It was in stark contrast to Foster's old provincial adversary Kieran Crowley over in the Italian box, whose 1000-yard stare made it look like he was witnessing the Celphalonia Massacre.

It was no surprise that the second half was a little more scrappy, but the All Blacks did actually keep up with the scoring rate of the first. It helped that by then the Italians had more than given up, like their coach the looks on their faces showing just how shell-shocked they were by the unforgiving All Black assault.

If there is one thing to be taken out of this test, it's probably how effective the All Blacks were at the lineout. They achieved their objectives on both sides of the ball, scoring several through traditional drives, dinky trick moves and simply fast ball that found its way to the midfield and the brittle, beleaguered and bumbling Italian defence.

Obviously, the Irish lineout will be in better shape than the nonsense that the Italians were serving up, but it gives Foster plenty to work with in the next couple of weeks before they head back to Paris and the biggest game of the year.