Aussie McLean faces NZ - for Italy

Nov 11, 2016 - 12:27 AM Plenty of Aussie kids grow up dreaming of scoring the winning try against the All Blacks at a packed-out stadium.

Not many, however, have the chance to do so in the blue jumper of Italy.

Luke McLean is one such person, after defecting to Italy in 2008 and going on to win more than 80 caps for his adopted homeland.

The Queenslander, who qualifies for Italy through an Italian grandmother, will line up at inside centre against the All Blacks on Saturday as his side chases a maiden win over the Kiwis.

He said there was no greater test than taking on the world champions, regardless of last week's surprise 40-29 defeat to Ireland.

"They've pretty much given 40 points to all the teams in the southern hemisphere so it'll be a great challenge, they're the benchmark," the 29-year-old McLean said.

"The coaches have a really simple game plan for what they want of me, so I'm just there to help out the No.10 and whatnot."

Italy have struggled in recent seasons on the Test stage, earning the wooden spoon in two of the last three Six Nations and falling out in the 2015 World Cup group stage.

But the appointment of Irish coach Conor O'Shea has stoked hopes of a rugby revival, as the ex-Test fullback looks to revolutionise the local game.

McLean said O'Shea had restored confidence to a playing group battered by repeated losses.

"They've given us a structure that they want us to stick to but within that structure they're trying to really make us express ourselves," McLean said.

"There's a lot of life being thrown back into Italian rugby and all the boys are really excited to rip in."

Source: AAP

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