Richard Loe: Bench pressed to make a much bigger impact

All Black Aaron Smith reacts to a scrum call during the Bledisloe Cup rugby match between the All Blacks and Australia. Photo / Dean Purcel
All Black Aaron Smith reacts to a scrum call during the Bledisloe Cup rugby match between the All Blacks and Australia. Photo / Dean Purcel

I can fully understand why the All Blacks aren't getting carried away, despite putting 50 points on the Wallabies last weekend.

They were good but not as good as they could have been and certainly not as good as they want to be.

That's not to say they weren't impressive for long periods or to suggest there's any reason to be overly critical or worried about their prospects.

It's said in the knowledge that this teamis all about striving for perfection and, in that regard, they could easily findmore to squeeze out of themselves.

The first place I'd be looking is the bench. I don't think, with the odd exception, they got enough from the men who came on later in the game.
The bench is a critical part of the set-up these days. I'm old-school. I'd prefer to see players go the full 80 but, as that isn't going to happen these days and the option is there to make changes, those injected have tomake an impact.

There's no point hauling players off after 60 minutes if the ones who comeon don't actually contribute much. You might as well just keep the tired legs out there and I felt that was pretty much the case with the front row that came on at Eden Park.

If Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles and Owen Franks were able to handle the Wallabies' scrum early in the game-at a time when Australia were more likely to have some energy and be able to compete-how come Ben Franks, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina didn't get much out of the Australian second-stringers?

Not only that, but I also thought the starting front row all delivered beyond their core roles.

They made some nice short passes, cleaned out rucks and did their tackling-all the added extras whichmake a difference. Not only did the new unit not deliver much in the set-piece, but they also didn't add much around the field.

With the next four tests against Argentina and South Africa, the set-piece becomes evenmore important.

NewZealand need to be super clinical at both scrum and line out time against those sides, and we can't drop off for 20 minutes.

We can't let changing personnel later in the game rob us of accuracy and momentum. Beauden Barrett has long set the example of what is expected froma bench player and did so in Auckland again.

Malakai Fekitoa tried hard and got involved but the man who I really want to mention is Steven Luatua.

He was dropped earlier this year and earned a reprieve only due to injury to others, but he has responded really well.

He's improved his work rate, been hungry and accurate and I thought he contributed at Eden Park last Saturday.

Other forwards who come on in future games need to do the same.

They need to up the energy and dynamism and make sure they walk off having given the selectors reason to think aboutmaking changes for the next test.

- Herald on Sunday

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