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Niggly All Blacks getting physical for must-win Italy clash at Rugby World Cup

New Zealand’s rugby players have been getting physical with each other in training as they look to keep their World Cup hopes alive against Italy, hooker Codie Taylor said on Tuesday.

Flanker Dalton Papali’i had admitted on Monday that some of the players had become “hot-headed” during some training sessions since New Zealand’s last match more than 10 days ago.

And Taylor said even young prop Tamaiti Williams had been getting stuck in.

“It’s always the same old faces, it’s usually a good sign,” Taylor told reporters from New Zealand’s training base in Lyon.

“There’s good niggle and over-the-top niggle, and I think we’ve had a bit of both at times.

“Old mate next to me (Williams) got stuck into it a bit as well. That’s a good sign, you’ve got a young first year All Black who’s willing to put his hand up and get stuck in, and he’s not afraid of it.”

Forwards coach Jason Ryan said there had been “some good physical exchanges”.

“I blew the whistle a couple more times than I usually do, but it’s a good sign, it’s all put in the right place.”

Ryan said Williams would get his first chance at this World Cup with Ethan de Groot suspended after his red card against Namibia.

New Zealand have never lost to Italy, winning all 15 previous Test matches by an average of 51 points.

Even so, Ryan insisted the All Blacks would show the Azzurri “a lot of respect”.

“Italy won’t go away, they’ve shown that in the last 12 months that they are really well coached,” said Ryan.

“They’re physical, they pride themselves on a lot of energy, they get around each other, they play with a lot of excitement, a lot of passion.”

New Zealand are expecting a lot of quick ball from Italy and have been impressed with their performances in the last couple of years, in which the Azzurri beat Australia for the first time and won away to Wales for the first time too.

“They’ve got a really fast ruck, the fastest in Tier 1 Test teams,” said Taylor.

“If we don’t slow that down, it’s going to be a really tough day. We’re going to have to match them physically and slow their ball down.”

And Taylor added: “Everyone’s a threat in this World Cup, and given that it’s a must-win (game) they’re definitely a massive threat.”

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