The guaranteed dry track under the retractable roof at Marvel Stadium and the ball-loving Wallabies usually point to the free-flowing Bledislow Cup opener on Thursday night.However, the All Blacks are
Be warned against the lure of a reckless all-out attack as they seek to secure their first consecutive win of the season.
It’s easy to believe that the All Blacks’ seven-time reign over the Cougars in Hamilton was marked by breath-taking attacking performances, when in fact the vision, diversity and discipline laid the blueprint for what they are now trying to adjust for the Wallabies.
Rather than attacking the Wallabies with a handball, the All Blacks may be more calm in their approach – using their increasing set-piece power to crush Australia before looking to exploit space.
The new All Blacks line-up of Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Ethan de Groot continues to grow into a menacing team – save for last season’s game against the Cougars in Christchurch , the lineup has improved under the leadership of Jason Ryan.
No doubt Richie Mo’unga will back his instincts and challenge the bottom line at times, but he will likely start by guiding the All Blacks through the boots around the Melbourne field – repeatedly driving the Wallabies deep into their half and powering them take risks.
All Blacks assistant coach Scott McLeod has hinted that the Wallabies will adopt their favorite width and talent, and hinted that the visitors will take a more planned approach.
Dropping the gay attack doesn’t appear to be on the All Blacks’ agenda.
“They’re going to encourage that game, they want to play that game to suit their skill level. We can’t be tempted,” McLeod said after training at the Powerhouse Junior Rugby club in Newport on Sunday. “We still need to be able to play at our own pace.”
One of the many lessons the All Blacks hope to learn from their tumultuous four-loss three-win season is the ability to recognize space. Mo’unga and David Havili, in particular, achieved this against the Cougars with deft kicking options, but that approach required some tweaking for the Wallabies as their defense wasn’t as narrow as Argentina’s.
Likewise, the crowded defense used by the All Blacks against the Cougars, offering limited attacking strikes, will need to expand to chase width against the Wallabies as they attempt to ignite deadly finisher Marika Koroibete.
“We had some very harsh lessons,” McLeod said. “Our biggest concern is to put a performance out there that we’re happy with. We haven’t done that a lot of times, but we feel like we did recently, so we’re trying to build on that.”
Those lessons carried over to the last time the All Blacks played under the roof of Dunedin, who were too loose in their second Test loss to Ireland after Angus Tavao’s red card.
“The way we played against Argentina and South Africa in the last four games was not the same as we played against Australia, so we are trying to see the space they want to give us and keep our space defending because we have been very tight against the Argies. We don’t want to be so tight on Australia,” McLeod said.
“We’ve played against two very competitive teams with good technique and space, so we have to be able to adapt.
“Australia brings more attacking threat, more handball and a higher skill level, so we have to plan for that.
“They have skills all over the park – 1 to 15 can get the ball into space very quickly. They have great footwork, passing and being able to play what they see in front of them. It’s a little different from ours ‘It’s playing, so we need to be much better than before.”
McLeod also pointed to the fingerprints of Brubys forward coach Dan McKellar on the Wallabies’ evolving style alongside Dave Rainey.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of the usual Brumbies game modes, but also Rens and combinations of them.”
Aside from the loose striker, the All Blacks are expected to move Hoskins Sotutu to No. 8 and possibly switch Scott Barrett from lockdown to the blind spot to replace Adi Sawa and Shannon Fritzel’s absence, likely little change for a team that must first rediscover consistency before they have a chance to consider a rotation.
“Both of the boys who aren’t here set very high standards, so it’s a challenge for the players who come in, but they also need to bring their strengths and tastes, so we’re looking forward to that.
“It’s an interesting thing to be so far from the World Cup. The selectors need to see everyone, but we’re in a place at the moment where we need to perform and continue to strengthen. I’m sure the selectors have that in mind. “
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