Rugby: Where the All Blacks can improve in second Bledisloe Cup test against Wallabies

It‘s presumably a good sign the All Blacks won the first Bledisloe test by 25 points and yet on Monday morning sat down to a relatively tense and difficult review that highlighted numerous faults in their performance.

The most critical fault was the failure to launch a single meaningful attack from a set-piece.

Extraordinary as it sounds, and as hard as it is to believe given the dominance of the All Blacks scrum and lineout, they didn‘t manage to turn that pressure into an effective attacking platform.

The All Blacks‘ tries when they came, were all built off broken or unstructured play and the inability to make more of the forwards‘ dominance has left a few of the backs determined to make amends at Eden Park.


“We don‘t want to give away too much to give them any fuel or insight, we just want to improve our game and get it to a standard where we want to be,” said All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.

“But you just have to look at our set piece attack which was firstly pretty average and we got nothing off that.

“It is pretty disappointing but there is an opportunity this week to fix it and if given the chance there are a few of us who like to make it better.

“One of the things we have prided ourselves on is our set piece attack but it is credit to Australia for the way they were able to defend and show us different pictures.

“There were lots of opportunities for us to get better and that is what we are focusing on after our review this morning.”

In recent years the All Blacks have been one of the few sides who have consistently been able to score tries direct off first phase possession.

They have been particularly good at hitting either Beauden Barrett or Ryan Crotty with a flat pass on the gain line direct from scrum possession and seeing those two go clean through to score.

Damian McKenzie also scored two memorable tries against France in June direct from scrum possession.

The All Blacks were so good at shifting the set-piece forward and twisting it to their angle of preference in Sydney, that they know it was a major failing to not capitalise on that.

Some of that inability could be put down to it being the first game in several weeks for many of the team and the first game together for the team since June.

The Wallabies‘ line speed in the midfield was also impressive and the onus is now firmly on the All Blacks‘ backs, particularly their midfield, to find the cohesion and timing that wasn‘t there in Sydney.

The first part of that equation will lie with the selectors who must decide how to replace Crotty in the starting line-up. The most obvious and probable selection is to stick with
Anton Lienert-Brown, who came on for Crotty in Sydney. Lienert-Brown has the experience and also played well in the first Bledisloe.

The other selection hurdle to clear will be re-configuring the back three to cope with the absence of Rieko Ioane who has strained his hamstring.

Nehe Milner-Skudder could come in as a straight replacement or, Waisake Naholo could switch to the left, Ben Smith scoot to the right and Damian McKenzie or Jordie Barrett start at fullback.

Or the prospect is even there of playing Barrett on the wing and keeping Smith at fullback.

Once the personnel has been decided, the All Blacks will need to identify ways in which they can more slickly send runners into holes direct from set piece possession.

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