The New Zealander made three changes and three positional shifts to the side that beat Uruguay 38-17 last week.
“The players that have missed out are obviously disappointed but it’s a World Cup Test match, it’s pretty bloody important, so it’s the strongest team that we can field,” said the straight-talking coach.
The side he has picked for Friday’s clash in Lyon is almost the same as the one that started their opening 52-8 Pool A victory over Namibia.
Given the history between the two teams — New Zealand have won all 15 previous Tests by an average of more than 50 points — Crowley is expecting the All Blacks to try to bully his team, but says they are ready for that.
“This is a new team, this team’s never played New Zealand. The New Zealand team that they named today has never played Italy as a team,” said Crowley.
“Yes there are stats, yes there is history, but history is always there to be broken.
“We’re under no illusions about what’s coming: they’re going to come at us, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re going to be intimidating.
“They will try and bully us, so we know what’s coming, we’ve embraced that challenge.”
Not only have Italy never beaten the All Blacks before, they have never qualified for the World Cup knock-out stages.
Both those records would change if they win on Friday.
“This group of 33 players we have out here have really matured over the last 18 months, they have a lot more confidence in their ability,” said Crowley.
“They back themselves, there is some courage, they have no fear. If that’s going to be good enough, we have to wait and see.”
‘Extra height’ in Dino Lamb
Scrum-half Stephen Varney comes back into the side while Luca Morisi will line-up at inside centre as Alessandro Garbisi and wing Lorenzo Pani drop out of the matchday 23.
“Luca brings experience at 12 and he’s played very, very well for us,” said Crowley of Morisi.
“He brings experience and skillset in that combination with (outside centre) Juan Ignacio Brex. They’ve played a lot of rugby together.”
In a backline re-shuffle, Tomasso Allen returns to full-back from fly-half, Ange Capuozzo shifts out wide to the right wing and Paolo Garbisi is back in the No.10 shirt having played inside centre in last week’s victory over Uruguay.
The only change in the pack sees Dino Lamb returning to the second row and Niccolo Cannone dropping to the bench.
“New Zealand have a very tall line-out, they’ve got three world class locks in (Brodie) Retallick, (Sam) Whitelock and (Scott) Barrett, and they could play one of them at six,” said Crowley.
“They have a very strong line-out, they contest the ball in line-outs so with the extra height of Dino there it gives us an extra line-out option and also another option to contest their line-out ball.
“He’s a good ball player and a little bit different to Niccolo Cannone. Niccolo’s a more roll up your sleeves and get stuck in (type of player). He will provide that later in the game.”
The sole difference from the match against Namibia sees Marco Riccioni keeping his place at tighthead prop and Simone Ferrari starting on the bench.
New Zealand-born forwards Hame Faiva and Toa Halafihi are both picked on the bench, with Crowley opting for six forwards and two backs.
Tommaso Allan; Ange Capuozzo, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Lorenzo Cannone, Michele Lamaro (capt), Sebastian Negri; Federico Ruzza, Dino Lamb; Marco Riccioni, Giacomo Nicotera, Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Ivan Nemer, Simone Ferrari Niccolo Cannone, Manuel Zuliani, Toa Halafahi, Martin Page-Relo, Paolo Odogwu
Coach: Kieran Crowley (NZL)
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