The 2020 Bledisloe Cup analysed – Part 2: The All Blacks
Last week I ran the rule over Dave Rennie’s beginnings as the Wallabies’ headman. What of Ian Foster’s start? What teachings came from Bledisloe 2020 from the New Zealand perspective? First, a 2-1-1 finish isn’t what New Zealand fans are looking for. With a 13-2 record in the last batch of years, the All Blacks […]
Last week I ran the rule over Dave Rennie’s beginnings as the Wallabies’ headman. What of Ian Foster’s start? What teachings came from Bledisloe 2020 from the New Zealand perspective?
First, a 2-1-1 finish isn’t what New Zealand fans are looking for. With a 13-2 record in the last batch of years, the All Blacks cannot accept losing to Australia, or merely winning two of four.
Foster was hired to be stable and to provide continuity. He has a top-three side, it just needs a tweak or two. The goal for him is to resume the All Blacks’ superiority, working from a very solid base.
After the Bledisloe this year, the Springboks actually have a wider lead in the odd rugby rankings, just by going on strike and because the Wallabies won the dead rubber in Brisbane.
Foster has a stable front row. If Joe Moody is fit, he has the loosehead jersey, but Karl Tu’inukuafe fits in well. Codie Taylor and Dane Coles are a twin tyro turbine of terrible talent. Big Ofa Tu’ungafasi is the bedrock at tighthead, with decent back-up on the bench.
The big miss in the tight five is Brodie Retallick. Sam Whitelock needs an angry partner. Patrick Tuipulotu is more of a happy warrior. That said, they wreaked havoc on the Wallabies’ lineout.
The loose trio looks to be Chiefs captain Sam Cane, he of the terminator body, and Ardie Savea, the leg-pumping freak, plus someone. Somebody. Is it Shannon Frizell, or Hoskins Sotutu, or Akira Ioane? I don’t know.
It is the big mystery for New Zealand rugby. Who is Jerome Kaino’s successor? I’m also not blown away by Savea at eight. If there was one area that would lift the team, it would be a six-eight combo with five overtones like Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen or the Welsh hunting dogs.
I say all of that not to knock the set piece. The All Blacks won 51 of 56 lineouts, 22 of 24 scrums, roll a good looking maul, and construct nice moves from lineout ball. They have a platform. But they lost 21 turnovers in Bledisloe 1, and were penalised too much in the last. They need a cleaner bouncer bully at six and a handyman at six. What about Du’Plessis Kirifi?
The back line is dangerous. Richie Mo’unga seems to own the flyhalf jersey. The Barrett boys can float around the fullback zone. Why doesn’t Beauden ever wing it?
The All Blacks scored 15 tries in the four Tests. That gets it done. But six came in one game. At times, the shape was amorphous. Perhaps that came from mass changes. But it was ominous to see slow ball in Brisbane delivered by TJ Perenara to a static combination of Beauden Barrett and Ngani Laumape. Also, Jack Goodhue may not really be a true All Blacks 12, no? Anton Lienert-Brown doesn’t make many mistakes at 13, but 12 is still iffy.
It doesn’t matter that much, against most, when you have a Caleb Clarke or Barrett to cut a line in pieces. Jordie Barrett has some sort of Conrad Smith magic, because he is so slow, but still scores all the time. Wings and fullbacks all look interchangeable, but it manages to work.
Sports opinion delivered daily
Defence is a strength if try concession is the stat, but tackling percentage was horrible, around 80 per cent. Scott McLeod is Mr Continuity, so we must look at him. Still, there were only two big downfalls: Nic White found ruck-area holes with his dances in the draw, and posts and pillars looked tired in Brisbane. When line speed was high, the All Blacks looked very difficult to break down.
The All Blacks tend to have slow starts to seasons. Foster did get to see a few switches, as he found combinations.
Overall, his team looked too inconsistent, too easily angered, and not calm enough to finish chances (even in the biggest win, they squandered four tries).