Opinion: All Blacks player ratings in must-win Rugby World Cup poolplay against Italy

OPINION: After two weeks to stew over their stalling World Cup fortunes, the All Blacks have sent a reminder of their abilities when backed against a wall.

Boosted by four frontline performers returning from injury, the three-time champions cut through Italy like a hot knife through pizza, scoring in multiples of seven (mainly), as they answered the challenge laid down by likely quarter-final opponents Ireland last week.

Those reinforcements largely showed what their team had missed during their absence, while many of those around them appeared refreshed after a bye week and on top form, with knockout rounds now looming.

All Blacks celebrate an Ardie Savea try against Italy.
All Blacks celebrate an Ardie Savea try against Italy. Photo credit: Photosport

Now let's hope Italy can still do a job on France and knock the home team out of the tournament. 

Here's how the All Blacks players rated against Italy:  

1-Ofa Tu'ungafasi 7

Set a strong foundation for the team's performance by dominating scrums from the outset. Make-up of the front row rotation will be intriguing, once Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot are both available.

2-Codie Taylor 8

One of his best showings in the black jersey. Industrious early, stealing two turnovers at ruck time, and ran an excellent support line in Ardie Savea's linebreak for Mark Telea's try.

Threw faultlessly to the lineout. Assisted Aaron Smith's second try, went close to an outrageous try of his own on halftime and snaffled a long lineout throw, before he was subbed off.

3-Nepo Laulala 7

Did his job well up front, with no handling errors. 

4-Brodie Retallick 8

Contributed to his team's lineout dominance, even stealing two off Italian throws, with one of his wins setting up Smith's second try. Ran hard up the middle and was rewarded by a try from Scott Barrett's kick chargedown. 

5-Scott Barrett 7.5

Won his share of lineout ball, but was penalised for jumping across, which resulted in Italy's opening try. Moved to the side of the scrum late and showed his mobility by charging down a clearing kick for Retallick's try.

6-Shannon Frizell 8.5

Showed why he was missed during his injury absence, with his hard running and aerial acumen. Became the All Blacks' No.1 lineout target and played a vital hand in three tries as a result.

Stole an Italian throw and won a ruck turnover. 

7-Dalton Papali'i 7.5

Made 11 tackles on defence and showed good hands to hold a difficult pass for his try.

8-Ardie Savea 9

Wears the captaincy well and led by example. Was penalised at the ruck for Italy's opening points, but made a big linebreak from his own 22 that led to Telea's try. 

Scored two tries himself and only credited with one try assist, after he chased a kickahead for Will Jordan's second, but also won the lineout that resulted in Dane Coles' first. Ran for 100 metres, with two linebreaks, five defenders beaten and three offloads.

Aaron Smith scores a try against Italy.
Aaron Smith scores a try against Italy. Photo credit: Getty Images

9-Aaron Smith 8.5

If he feels Cam Roigard breathing down his neck, Smith responded by returning to his sniping best, scoring a hattrick of tries off the back of a big forward display. Uncharacteristically, one of those came off a lineout maul.

10-Richie Mo'unga 8

Controlled the game well, kicked near faultlessly off the tee and timed his pass expertly in the build-up to Smith's third try. 

11-Mark Telea 8

Ran powerfully for 120 metres, beat five defenders and scored a try off Savea's break. Threw a shaky pass that Papali'i somehow secured for his try and held up his opposite in the tackle for a maul turnover.

Continues to do enough to hold out Leicester Fainga'anuku for his starting spot, which says something.

12-Jordie Barrett 8.5

Laid on a pinpoint crosskick for the game's opening try to Jordan, won a couple of ruck penalties and assisted on Smith's third try. Showed no ill affects from the knee injury that sidelined him through the opening rounds.

13-Rieko Ioane 7.5

Led his team with 12 tackles, but missed four, including one on his namesake that enabled Italy to score. Lost the ball forward on hot attack, but his quick hands sparked the break that eventually saw him assist Coles' second try.

Will Jordan in action against Italy.
Will Jordan in action against Italy. Photo credit: Photosport

14-Will Jordan 8.5

Ran a game-high 135 metres, scoring two tries - the first a real Watene-Zelezniak Warriors special - with four linebreaks and four offloads. Simply superb when given space.

15-Beauden Barrett 7

Kicked off into touch on the full early, but immediately made amends by linking with Savea to assist Telea's try. Quiet game, but continues to hold down the 15 jersey.



16-Dane Coles 7.5

Replaced Taylor in the 57th minute, score a try from an attacking lineout and another at the end of a backline move.

17-Tamaiti Williams 7

Replaced Tu'ungafasi in the 49th minute for his first taste of World Cup action and, if anything, contributed to a scrum that was even more dominant than the first half. Continues to make promising baby steps.

18-Tyrel Lomax 7

Replaced Laulala in the 49th minute, contributed to the dominant scrum and will have benefited from gametime, which will springboard him back into the starting line-up.

19-Sam Whitelock 7

Replaced Frizzell in the 49th minute to break Richie McCaw's All Blacks test record. Won a couple of lineouts, including one for Anton Lienert-Brown's try.

Damian McKenzie in action against Italy.
Damian McKenzie in action against Italy. Photo credit: Photosport

20-Sam Cane 6.5

Replaced Papali'i in the 57th minute and will have needed the run to blow cobwebs off. Assisted on Coles' first try, but dropped the ball cold on attack.

21-Cam Roigard 7

Replaced Smith in the 49th minute and had a try disallowed for a double movement. Made the break and assisted on Lienert-Brown's try

22-Damian McKenzie 7.5

Replaced Mo'unga in the 64th minute, and sparked an attack with a long pass to Jordan and  support line. Scored a try, ran for 75 metres in limited time, including three breaks, four defenders beaten and two offloads - and kicked 4/4 from the tee.

This is the performance that sets a template for McKenzie's contributions off the bench going forward.

23-Anton Lienert-Brown 7.5

Replaced Jordie Barrett in the 64th minute and provided a backflip pass to McKenzie for his try, before scoring one of his own.

Grant Chapman is Newshub's online sports lead