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14 November 2022
italy v samoa 2022 autumn international
italy v samoa 2022 autumn international

“You should be f****** dying to be here, and you should be giving it everything you’ve f****** got. And I don’t think that some of you boys realise that,” Kieran Crowley rarks up his Italian rugby team, during the build-up to playing the All Blacks on 2021’s northern tour. “I know, okay. I played for the All Blacks for nine years,” Crowley continues, memorably. “You’re f****** soft, you’ve got to f****** harden up, or else you’ll get f****** nowhere in this world. The holiday is over, boys. Monday, we come in and we will be ruthless.” Crowley’s Italians picked up, and played respectably.

“I didn’t know they [media] were recording that. That was our first practice. I had to establish a few things. I didn’t think it was memorable. I thought it was realistic.” A 19-Test and 39-match All Blacks fullback, Crowley cogently points out that just rugby is no longer enough. That viewers need to be allowed behind the scenes, to taste what goes into the big games. “I wasn’t a fan of Formula One at all, until I saw [Netflix’s] Drive to Survive.” Living through northern Italy’s 2020 Covid-19 outbreak was surreal.

“Italy got it first. It was really tough. A lot of people were dying. My players couldn’t leave their homes, let alone practise, for months.” It was heartening being back training in the Eternal City – battling at the Olympic Stadium. “It had been eerie playing to empty stadiums; Italian crowds don’t hold back.” Talking about ruthless and memorable, the 1986 Battle of Nantes, against Les Bleus of France, is considered one of the All Blacks’ all-time roughest Tests. “Getting older, I don’t remember a few things, but I will never forget that! When I walked out the changing room and I stood beside them, their eyes were just huge,” All Blacks No 8 ‘Buck’ Shelford recalled on Radio Sport, around team doctor Jacque Mombet’s confession that the French were freighted by amphetamines.

“It was like they had been on uppers for the last hour or so. They just looked like they were high as kites,” said Shelford. “Yeah, I’d have to agree with Buck there,” Crowley chuckles. “They just hit us. Whatever it was, emotionally they were way up and it was certainly a battering game. They gave it to us. They were pretty hyped up. So they’ll say what they say about it, but I wouldn’t dispute what ‘Buck’ has said around that one.” Like Shelford, All Black No 848 says the 16-3 loss was the most ferocious game he played in the black jersey. “Nantes was one hell of a game. I remember sitting in the changing rooms afterwards, and Buck was sitting there...

Continue this story in our November 22 issue – on shelves now!

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