Brodie Retallick says the All Blacks will be ready for what’s coming in the opening test against the Lions.

Forewarned is forearmed, reckon the All Blacks when it comes to that withering defensive line-speed of Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions. As Steve Hansen would say, they might just have more up their sleeves than their arms.

They know it’s coming all right in Saturday’s opening test of the series at Eden Park, and they have seen first-hand the way it can squeeze the life out of such quality opponents as the Crusaders and New Zealand Maori who have both been ground into the turf by Gatland’s full-strength, fast-off-the-mark weekend lineup.

Gatland’s shadow test squad has conceded just one try in 160 minutes of rugby on this tour, and pummelled both the Crusaders (12-3) and Maori (32-10) in the process. They may be struggling to find their attacking flow, but you simply cannot fault the manner in which they have defended through two impressive victories.

Clips from those two games will have been loaded en masse on to the All Blacks’ devices and will be compulsory viewing all week as they build up for the always pivotal opening encounter of this delicious three-test series that only rolls round every dozen years.

The brains trust of Hansen, Ian Foster and Wayne Smith will also be game-planning like mad, and the players expect to see so much of the defensive tactic on the training field all week, that by the time the test rolls round, receiving ball and defender all but simultaneously will be second nature.

That all said, two of the All Blacks’ big boppers admitted it’s a tactic the Lions use extremely well and is just different enough to anything else out there to be a shock to the system of the ill or under-prepared.

“They brought a real intensity, and we saw probably how they will play,” said Brodie Retallick of the Maori game. “It’s all about us this week and what we’re going to do to overcome their line-speed and attack.”

But the 26-year-old rated by many as the world’s best lock conceded there was enough newness to the Lions’ methods to warrant respect. “We don’t see it as intense as the Lions do it,” he said of a ‘D’ line with an Olympic sprinter’s speed out of the blocks.

“Some New Zealand Super Rugby sides are using it, and the Hurricanes do it really well. But it’s not something you face week in, week out. You’ll play Australian or South African team and if numbers are down they’ll hold and push instead of just flying up like the Lions do.

“I guess it’s a wee bit of perceived pressure because you’ve got someone coming fast at you. We will train that this week and get used to it, but it is slightly different to what we’re used to.”

That said, Retallick wasn’t exactly wiping beads of sweat off his brow when the subject came up at Monday’s media conference, on the back of a morning gym session and busy day of meetings to set the agenda for the week.

“We know it’s going to come, so acknowledging it’s going to happen is a starting point. And we’ve got certain skills or aspects we want to adapt to beat it. We’ll train it this week and put a plan in place where hopefully we can get outside it or in behind it.”

Veteran loose forward Jerome Kaino, who confirmed his readiness with a solid 57 minutes in Friday’s romp over Samoa, said it was a part of the Lions’ game that had to be prepared for.

“Whatever any team does, there’s always an opportunity [to find space elsewhere], but also it’s how you deal with their pressure,” said the 78-test No 6. “From what we’ve seen it’s been a strength of theirs and puts teams under a lot of pressure and makes them do things they don’t usually do.

“We’ll address that this week and train areas where we can attack it. But it’s awesome how they defend. The Lions just don’t miss their tackles when they get up there.”

The other perceived strength of the visitors is in that pack which is expected to be retained en masse from the Maori game. The All Blacks understand that if they can match, or even shade, them in the arm-wrestle, they’ll be a long way down the track to a 1-0 series lead.

“You always want to measure yourself against the best, and the way northern hemisphere teams have been playing the last couple of years in the forwards, they’ve set the standards. I want to measure myself against those guys,” said Kaino, a likely starter in the loose trio alongside skipper Kieran Read and openside Sam Cane.

Added Retallick: “We’ve got huge respect for what the Lions are and what they’re bringing. Their set piece is a real asset – their scrum and lineout maul. It’s going to be a battle there. They’ve got some big, ball-carrying loose forwards and we’re going to have to get in front of them and make tackles.”

Forewarned, forearmed and certainly fervent, this is a test that can’t come soon enough for these All Blacks.

source : Stuff

All Blacks bite back to secure Bledisloe glory 51 -20

Retribution indeed.

Moral of the story? Don’t make the All Blacks’ forwards angry. They will bite back.

Seven days is a long time in sport – an even longer time to stew on a poor performance. Very rarely do you see the All Blacks miss their lofty standards by such a margin as they did in the dour Sydney draw last week. Yes, the conditions were difficult. Yes, the referee had a shocker. In the end, they are excuses.

Tonight, instead, was an explosion of pent-up frustration, particularly from the bigger boys in black. They deserve the credit for locking away the treasured Bledisloe Cup for a 12th straight year. The backs sure couldn’t have recorded this 51-20 recoding breaking victory – the most points at home against the Wallabies – without them.

The big difference between Sydney and Auckland was the physical aggression of Steve Hansen’s forward pack. This week they did the dirty work.

They cleaned out rucks with vigour; they flew off the line and whacked those in green and gold jerseys with tag-team tackling. Dane Coles was a force with ball in hand; Brodie Retallick thundered into everything and Kieran Read was back to his usual prominence.

Collectively, as an eight-man unit, they rattled the Australians to lay an exemplary platform. They were ruthless.

By the 50th minute, when Read crashed over, the visitors were stuffed – the All Blacks’ brutal mix of fast-paced counter attack and crunching defence had grinded them into the turf. After that, it just seemed cruel. Almost like bullying at the school playground.

Not even Richie McCaw’s fair yellow card for cynically playing the ball on the ground could stop his men. The same could not be said for the Wallabies pack – sent backpedalling in the first scrum after Sam Carter was binned for infringing at the maul. Carter’s card proved much more costly, his side conceding (14 points) two tries – one a penalty try from a five metre scrum shunt – while he was off the park.

If it wasn’t already a proven fact, we can also now confirm there’s something undeniably special about Eden Park. The venue continues its fortress status – 20 years and 33 tests since the All Blacks last lost there. It’s going to take a damn good team to break that record.

Down 23-6 at half time, the Wallabies’ decision to stay on the field, rather than retreat to the changing rooms, in a bid to diminish the ground’s mystique looked laughable. Clearly changing hotels didn’t work either.

The 50,000 sell-out crowd were treated as the All Blacks ran in six tries. Many of those were orchestrated by Aaron Cruden.

After a sub-par performance in Sydney, Cruden’s game management was superb. On the back of a supremely dominant forward display he thrived with the time, space and freedom all playmakers desire. The short kicking options, delayed passing and running game – Cruden’s full range of skills were on display.

With Ben Smith chiming in frequently from the back, the All Blacks’ left-side attack was lethal, allowing Julian Savea to run rampant down his flank. Conrad Smith’s return to the backline – after missing last week with the birth of his first son – can also not be glossed over. There were some notably telling touches from the classy centre.

Filling Ma’a Nonu’s considerable shoes, Ryan Crotty can be pleased with his contribution before succumbing to a cheek bone injury at half time.

This was a crushing reality check for Ewen McKenzie’s men. They thought they had turned the corner. After arriving with the knowledge they blew a gift chance last week, they leave with their eight match unbeaten run well and truly quashed. They’ve got some work to do yet before their forward pack is not seen as having a soft underbelly.

McCaw and co. hold higher standards than the average team and they won’t be happy about letting in two soft tries to Israel Folau and Michael Hooper late in the second half. They can’t afford such slip ups against South Africa in the coming weeks.

But, for now, they will savour sipping from the Bledisloe.

SCOREBOARD

All Blacks 51 penalty try, Julian Savea, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw 2, Steven Luatua, Aaron Cruden pen 3, con 5, Aaron Smith con Wallabies 20 Israel Folau, Michael Hooper tries, Kurtley Beale pen 2, con 2 HT: 23-6.

– Stuff

 

All Blacks need a strong Springbok team to validate them.

My great friend Mike Greenaway has been fortunate to cover many of South Africa’s post-isolation Test matches in New Zealand and have learned beyond any shadow of doubt that the Kiwi rugby public loves nothing better than a strong Springbok team visiting their shores.

He recalls being in 2005 being in Dunedin for the match between John Smit’s defending Tri-Nations champion team and the All Blacks at Carisbrook, and at stake was the crown. The team that won that match would win the Tri-Nations.

It was a week of feverish excitement in Dunedin. The old rivalry had been revived and gripped the “Edinburgh of the South”, as the icy city is known because of its strong Scottish ancestry. On the morning of the match, the Otago Daily Times carried this headline across its back page: “Welcome back Boks – we have missed you”.

This was a reference to that dreadful period in the Springbok-All Blacks rivalry where the South Africans went missing in action. After having beaten the Kiwis in the third-place play-off at the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Cardiff, the Boks then lost eight in a row to the All Blacks, including the infamous 16-52 humiliation at the (former) fortress of South African rugby, Loftus Versfeld, in 2003.

South Africa won the Tri-Nations the next year in their first campaign under Jake White and Smit and, although they did not win in New Zealand, there was a sound drought-breaking triumph at Ellis Park, and in the next match between the sides, the following year, the Boks were resounding winners at Newlands.

Which brought them to Dunedin for the return match and the Kiwis were indeed thrilled that there was again a genuine contest between their team and their old foe. There was a column by a veteran journalist who recalled how as a youth he had woken up in the early hours when the All Blacks were touring South Africa and with his dad had listened to the radio commentary that told of these monstrous Springboks that were dominating Test after Test, and he wondered at the time if they could ever be beaten.

Indeed, in the pre-isolation era, the Boks beat the All Blacks more often than they lost, although there was not too much in it. In 1992, before the isolation-breaking Test between the countries at Ellis Park, the Boks were up 20-17 in Tests between the countries.

Sadly, that positive record was quickly overturned in the professional era. The All Blacks had moved up to another level following the Boks’ isolation following that tremendous series between the teams in 1981, which should have ended in a drawn rubber had it not been for the shameless interfering of Welsh referee Clive Norling – who to this day knows better than to set foot in South Africa – in the infamous “flour bomb” Test at Eden Park.

The All Blacks won that Test with a late penalty by fullback Alan Hewson after a penalty contrived by Norling. Incidentally, that 2005 Test in Dunedin lived up to expectation and the All Blacks won that match (and the Tri-Nations) with a late try by hooker Keven Mealamu.

In general, though, the Boks have been inconsistent against the All Blacks post their 1995 Rugby World Cup final triumph. In 40 matches since 1996, the All Blacks have won 28 and the Boks just 12, with only three wins on New Zealand soil in 17 years of annual visits.

That is why New Zealand gets so excited when a strong Springbok team visits, as is the case this week. The reports out of New Zealand clearly indicate that the country is once more seized with rugby fever.

The reason is because the All Blacks need a strong Springbok team to validate them. They routinely beat everybody, give or take France occasionally upsetting them in World Cups and the Wallabies once in a while providing a Bledisloe Cup upset.

However, it is the Boks that still have that historic ability to render the All Blacks human when they are seemingly unbeatable. The Kiwis know it and they would rather have that competition than not.

%d bloggers like this: