Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Game plan calls for return to basics

Kieran Read soars high, something the All Blacks failed to do for most of the match. Photo / Getty Images
Kieran Read soars high, something the All Blacks failed to do for most of the match. Photo / Getty Images

One record is gone but the excitement is building within the All Blacks to set another straight in their return Bledisloe Cup encounter against the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday.

Although it is back to square one after Saturday's draw in Sydney broke the streak of 17 victories, don't expect wholesale changes, merely an attempt to return to what the All Blacks do best.

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After emerging from a team meeting at their Auckland hotel yesterday, Kieran Read spoke of the need for his side to go back to basics, a requirement to carry into contact hard, to recycle the ball, to build momentum, to get into positions where the Wallabies defence can be truly tested. These were areas at ANZ Stadium where, for whatever reason, the All Blacks couldn't reach their usual standards and there is a resolve to do so at their fortress where they haven't lost for 20 years and where Australia last won in 1986.

Victory for the All Blacks will prevent the Bledisloe Cup from changing hands, a point touched on by Read yesterday as he looked ahead to a defining match in the Rugby Championship.

"It's a new week. There was disappointment there definitely but we've got to shift that focus pretty quickly," he said. "It's a great opportunity this week to do well and do the business and lock away the Bledisloe.

"It's important that we got back to what we do well. It was a tough game in all respects on Saturday night so we're just about going back to the drawing board and doing the things that suit us, which are carrying hard and tackling well and recycling the ball really quick."

Read added of the key to unlocking the All Blacks' attack: "It's having a really hard work ethic to get into positions across the park so we can really use the ball - let it do its thing, which is what we try to do best."

An intriguing subplot is the injury status of midfielder Ma'a Nonu and loose forward Jerome Kaino. They were due to have scans on their respective shoulder and elbow injuries yesterday, but, according to Read, it wouldn't surprise if neither was available.

If that is the case then Steve Hansen will have to decide who to select alongside the returning Conrad Smith in the midfield - Malakai Fekitoa or Ryan Crotty? The selection of Liam Messam for Kaino is likely to boost the All Blacks' attack slightly but another centre partnership after last Saturday's misfire is far from ideal.

There should be an improved ruthlessness among the forwards, but some things once again will be out of their control, such as the referee's rulings and the officiating of scrums in particular.

There is no doubt the All Blacks would like more reward for their dominant scrum. Their frustration levels mounted in Sydney as referee Jaco Peyper continually reset a Wallabies scrum following collapses when a case could easily have been made for an All Black penalty.

"We put pressure on, and whether teams can handle it - we've just got to continue to be smart about that," Read said about the All Blacks' scrum.

"You want to put as much pressure on as you can without giving away penalties."

Asked about the penalty count against the All Blacks, Read said: "I don't think it's an issue. It's probably something we certainly need to improve on. We can't be giving away the amount of penalties that we did give away last week ... it's about us being disciplined enough to back ourselves and our systems."

- APNZ

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