Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Coaches give ABs chance to get it right

Sharpening up basic skills needed rather than wholesale changes, says Foster.

All Blacks No.8 Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam. Photo / Greg Bowker
All Blacks No.8 Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam. Photo / Greg Bowker

Basic skill improvement was top of the agenda for the All Blacks in Dunedin yesterday as they pursued the theory they will come right in the second test if they sharpen their pass and catch.

Having had a few days to mull the disjointed and inaccurate effort at Eden Park, the All Blacks have concluded they don't have to rip up the playbook and start again. While the performance in Auckland had failed to meet expectations, it wasn't quite as bad as has been made out in some quarters.

Video


Assistant coach Ian Foster said there was no need for the All Blacks to be considering wholesale changes of personnel. As a basic premise, the coaching panel would always prefer those involved in a poor collective performance to be given the opportunity to make amends.

More importantly, selection wasn't considered one of the problems in Auckland.

"If you go and make wholesale changes now it can create a bit of uncertainty and panic," said Foster. "It would be like we were disappointed with everything we did and the reality is we had a test win over England and we are proud of any test win. And there are some areas where we have to get better.

"Our job is to figure out do we need to improve what we have got or do we need to bring someone new in. Overall we are satisfied with the group we have got and we have got to get better."

Video


There may, though, be at least one change to the starting XV as Julian Savea was running freely while Israel Dagg was given yesterday off to rest a troublesome thigh and knee.

Given the length of the season and the depth available to the All Blacks, they may decide not to risk Dagg this weekend and revert Ben Smith to fullback with Savea and Cory Jane on the wings.

Regardless of what decision is made about Dagg, Savea is an almost certain starter: the All Blacks missed his power and punch and he offers a different set of skills to both Smith and Jane.

Kieran Read trained fully yesterday and has been passed fit to play but Foster, much like Hansen did a few days ago, stressed that the concern with the No8 is his conditioning rather than his head.

Tests at the Forsyth Barr Stadium have yielded an average of 51 points and inevitably the game will be played at a breakneck speed, which Read, having barely played for the last six weeks, may struggle to keep up with.

The specific make-up of the team, however, has not been occupying much of the panel's thoughts. They have been more interested to see a lift in attitude, energy and intensity and gain some sense that the players have tuned into the demands of test rugby again.

"We weren't as prepared as we needed to be," said Foster of the first test. "We have seen a good response. The players are their own harshest critics and they know when they haven't performed.

"When you are coming off a performance that you are not that happy with, it certainly brings an edge to the start of the week. That's one advantage of not starting the series in the way we would have liked. There is no complacency we are looking to learn from that last game and create a bit more edge in our training.

"Stuff we should be nailing at this level we weren't as good as we needed to be and we have to give England some credit for that."

Highlanders' wing Patrick Osborne trained with the All Blacks yesterday as cover for Dagg.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 25 Jul 2014 01:01:07 Processing Time: 585ms