OPINION: Hey you All Blacks – change something!
No longer can you hope to win test matches against kamikaze opposition without treasuring the ball.
Nothing has been learned from the strangulation by England at the World Cup two years ago.
Steve Hansen was blindsided by it then and Ian Foster, off the same coaching conveyer belt, still hasn’t worked it out either.
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Maybe they should surprise France by opting out of the haka or by not sharing the ball with the backs who Foster has maligned, even if it wasn’t them who spilled kickoffs and were slammed behind the advantage all day in Dublin.
Our domestic teams play the flamboyant game and we in New Zealand demand it.
We can get away with it against the Wallabies, but in Europe it’s all about winning, even if it’s ugly. Foster’s troops have become sitting ducks for teams hell-bent on applying pressure and who don’t miss tackles.
These teams are saying, if you kick the ball to us, you won’t see it for a long time.
Argentina did it in Brisbane last year and the Springboks have taken pressure rugby to an industrial level to asphyxiate the All Blacks. Now Ireland have done it again, and it stung that it took a Kiwi, Joe Schmidt, to lay their base.
Irish people will be asking, what has become of Schmidt? Well Ireland, he is going to the Blues, as an assistant coach!
New Zealand forwards don’t appear to be up to grinding out a win, as Ireland did last Sunday. We pick athletes and it’s not in their DNA to chug the ball up like tractors.
But if they can find a way to do it, then eventually our backs must profit.
At least on Sunday our guys did score two tries because when they lost in Dublin in 2018 they didn’t get any. If it was’t for one forward pass they might even have stolen last Sunday’s test, despite making 238 tackles.
Foster has other underlying issues. Locking depth is one, with warhorses Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick both going 80 in Dublin because only youngster Tupou Vaái was on the bench.
The midfield has been a problem since the 2015 World Cup. Feilding researcher Nick Rutherford reveals there have been 18 midfield combos since then. Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane had never started together before Sunday and Lienert-Brown has had eight midfield partners.
Ngani Laumape would have been the perfect 12 if the All Blacks wanted to tighten up, rather than David Havili who is a skilled utility back.
Meanwhile, English referee Luke Pearce wasn’t a factor in the defeat, aside perhaps from the excessive yellow card to Codie Taylor. Pearce likes his forensic discussions, chats and conversations, but he got most calls correct.
Scrum the Turbos’ 2022 priority
When Manawatū’s Turbos, who first kicked off in 2006, stage their reunion next year, they will want to see the scrum holding up.
By the time last week’s semifinal against Otago came along all of the experienced props were gone. Harrison Allan’s sore back lasting only 12 minutes. That left kids at the mercy of a Super Rugby frontrow.
Joe Gavigan is just 19 while Flyn Yates, 21, started the season as one of three Varsity hookers. We got first sight of giant young prop Darius Mafile’o for only two minutes versus Otago, and he’s such a colossus. Maybe he could transition to the vexed position of tighthead prop.
In most provinces these youngsters would be playing colts rep rugby.
The coaches did go to the market this year, only for 33-year-old Ropate Rinakama to be injured in pre-season and not be fit from then on. Injuries beset Feilding prop Tietie Tuimauga too and next we knew he’d flitted off to Connacht in Ireland.
Auckland Jarred Adams’ forte was around the track, until he too was injured.
When Liam Mitchell departed for Italy, that didn’t help the scrum against Otago and when first-five Brett Cameron withdrew injured, Manawatu’s semifinal became the perfect storm.
Cameron was an excellent acquisition. Canterbury blundered by not giving him game time and when the Turbos did, he showed he was one of the best 10s in the country.
My top six Turbos were Cameron, Mitchell, TK Howden and Brayden Iose in a loose trio which started all nine games, wing Ed Fidow and fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Next year halfback Jamie Booth and Tyler Laubscher are expected back from injuries, Booth also with the Hurricanes.
Centre Josiah Maraku has an academy contract with French division-two club Narbonne and hopefully he will re-sign with Manawatū.
Covid ensured the Turbos never got to see flanker-lock Faátiga Lemalu who was stranded in Auckland and while lock Veikoso Poloniati has signed for Moana Pasifika, he didn’t get a start for Manawatū.