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The falsest of All Black dawns collapses in a heap


It is easy to death ride the Ian Foster All Blacks and across the last couple of seasons they have made it pretty easy for all and sundry to do so.

Yet again this week we watched an All Black side with little heart, zero discipline and an attitude that belies all the comment about respecting the opposition.

Last season I wrote that deep inside this All Black coaching group, and now playing squad, there was an inherent belief that they could play their own brand of free-flowing rugby without the need to set a platform to play off and that they were good enough to outscore anyone.

The opening weekend of the Ireland Test series flattered to deceive that they may learnt a few lessons from the prior year’s debacles and had reverted to a focus on the core elements of the game.

Compete at the gain line and ruck time, be patient with the ball when they have it and have plans to move the opposition around and be rock solid at set piece time. All sorts of premature declaration from me.

At the end of last week’s seriously over-optimistic piece however sat this conclusion: can you play like that every week? Probably not, as teams will adjust quickly.

Can you use the tactic again, interspersed with a mix of kicking off 10 or 15? Absolutely.

How that thinking does not permeate the Blacks coaching team I don’t know, as again the All Blacks starting slowly and conceded points while managing to find ways to get themselves a space on the naughty step while still constantly pushing passes that led to errors when it was clear Ireland had adjusted their defensive pattern.

Ian Foster during a New Zealand All Blacks press conference

All Blacks coach Ian Foster. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Blatant disregard for the Universal Law of Holes (when you find yourself in one, stop digging), the All Blacks set up their demise at the selection table and compounded error upon error as soon as referee Jaco Peyper got us underway.

I can kind of understand the thinking around the selection of Dalton Papalii, he’s a big guy, normally shows up with a huge work rate, but in practice, and when his mates really needed it with Ardie Savea marooned on the bench (someone needs to answer for that too), he went missing, totally unable to find himself a way into the game.

No matter the player numbers you end up with on the park, the basics of the game do not change and work rate will always be at the heart of that.

Ask any decent businessperson, and they will tell you that compounding errors, sticking to an ideology in the face of all logic, and not following Occam’s Razor is normally a pretty good recipe for your business going out the back door. Same applies to elite sport.

So, surely calling for the purpose-built Cullen Grace was the best way to go or leave Scott Barrett where he played so well and simply insert an in-form lock, such as Josh Dickson. But no, the compounding errors model was the option of choice.

Thank God for captain Sam Cane who pretty much ended up playing back row all by himself.

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What is surprising is that the remaining forwards put in one hell of shift; New Zealand had 52 per cent possession across the match, made fewer tackles than Ireland, conceded fewer turnovers and despite all odds, somehow avoided a total decimation at set piece time.

Broken record time: even with 52 per cent possession, the All Blacks could not turn this into any kind of territory because they have a five first eight who spends an inexplicable amount of time at fullback, and simply does not have either the length of kicking game nor the tactical nous and patience to step up and take the responsibility of driving his side around the park.

If this were an isolated incident, maybe we could write it off, but I cannot recall how many times I have written this over the last two years. No kicking from 12, an average effort from Jordie Barrett at fullback, and it all compounds up a position where Ireland was never under any pressure in their own half for a period of time.

Does anyone else see the irony in Beauden Barrett declaring publicly that he wants to compete for the 10 shirt, stating he does not consider himself to be a fullback, and then when handed the cutter for this series, just heads off and stands at… fullback, or is that just me?

This All Black side is playing with zero control, everything looks hurried, trying to score every time they get the ball and not playing the longer game of building pressure until your opposition cracks.

We all saw in the Super Rugby Pacific final which model works the best. The Razor Robertson constrictor model chocked the very life out of the hit-and-run Blues side, but at international level, the All Black coaching team chooses to ignore basic tenets and revert to the Helter Skelter model as their default. It may well work on occasion, but it sure is not the way to be a consistently successful international rugby team.

If a board of directors were analysing the performance of their CEO and executive management team, now would be the time to take serious action. We have a Rugby World Cup only 16 matches away so now is the time for root-and-branch cuts in the coaching, strategy and playing staff of this All Black organisation.

What really rankles the most is watching an Irish side mirror back to us all the things that have made New Zealand successful over the years.

They are patient, organised, calm and controlled, while always making sure they play in the right areas of park, but mainly, they bring it every week, work hard for their mates around them, and are just downright tough.





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