The All Blacks have something to prove in their last game of 2018 - Kogonuso

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Nov 23, 2018

The All Blacks have something to prove in their last game of 2018

After a Guinness-soaked seven days in Dublin that culminated in perhaps the All Blacks most significant defeat of the decade, the last Test of the year in Rome has all of a sudden got a lot more riding on it than we all thought, writes Jamie Wall.

The Eternal City greeted us initially with a beautiful day when we arrived, a nice change from the grey skies of the Emerald Isle.

It gave us a chance to head out straight away to see the sights, including the nearby Trevi Fountain, Forum, Trajan's Column and the Coliseum. Towering over the ancient ruins and renaissance art is the Altare della Patria, or Altar of the Fatherland.

It's grandiose collection of marble columns and statues is a prominent display of both history and patriotism - heavy under its own self-importance and looking like it was designed by someone desperately trying to overcompensate for something.

However, the good weather didn't last long, a thunderstorm rolled in on Tuesday, meaning that the All Black training we'd all trekked out to see was suddenly in danger of being called off in case lightning struck.

It held off and the team took the field, although it's safe to say that they're used to far better grounds.

A groundsman was quickly painting the lines on the field before training, while the goal post pads slumped down shabbily over an in-goal covered in weeds.

NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew, who had shown up to watch the training, found himself jumping in to help putting cones on the ground where the lines hadn't been painted yet

The park wasn't too far away from the impressive Stadio Olimpico, where Saturday's test will be played. In Roman tradition, it too has its fair share of statues - it was the home of the 1960 Olympic Games, so has a special place in New Zealand sporting history.

Peter Snell and Murray Halberg both won gold medals in the 800m and 5000m respectively, which is fondly remembered every time the All Blacks play in Rome.

The loss to Ireland over the weekend has taken a bit of the general fondness out of the tour as a whole. It's now clear that the All Blacks have a bit of work to do to perfect the game plan that they will use to defend the World Cup next year, because it is somewhat late in the piece to change it up

The team clearly has been rocked by the latest result, for the first time in a long time they can't walk out onto the park knowing they are the best team in the world right now.

However, barely a word has been mentioned about their opponents this week, which is another stark contrast to the four tests preceding this one.

The press conferences haven't exactly been the big drawcard for local journalists like they were in Tokyo, London and Dublin, where the All Blacks were quizzed incessantly on what they thought of their opponents

All that is really known of the Italian rugby side is that they're likely to be frustrating, which is exactly what the All Blacks don't want right now.

The Azzuri kept the Wallabies to a 26-7 scoreline last week, and their most notable achievement in the last couple of seasons was to figure out a way to basically play offside against England and avoid a hiding at Twickenham.

This game needs to be a statement win, in order to assuage some of the criticism coming from back home.

For now though, the All Blacks have been sightseeing and reflecting on an interesting year. There is plenty to see and do in Rome, they can more or less wander the streets unnoticed and act like every other tourist - albeit ones with a World Cup on their minds for next year

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