What the All Blacks need to work on for the second test

By Kris Shannon

All Blacks midfield back Ryan Crotty in action against Wales. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks midfield back Ryan Crotty in action against Wales. Photo / Brett Phibbs

They may have won 39-21 but the All Blacks still have a few things to work on ahead of the second test in Wellington.

1) Defence

If the ease with which Wales penetrated the All Blacks' defence looked a little unfamiliar, there's a reason for that. Saturday night was the first time the All Blacks had conceded at least 20 points since their last defeat, against Australia in August 2015. And it was even more unusual for Eden Park regulars-the 21 points conceded were the most at the venue since 2006. Wales were allowed to create far too much space as a defensive line infused with a number of new players lacked structure and cohesion.

2) Midfield

That was especially, and understandably, true of the midfield. Making just their second test start as a pair, Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa were reasonably solid but struggled to limit the effectiveness of the Welsh whenever they went wide.

And on attack, the backline was occasionally too flat which saw their own impact negated by the tourists' rush defence. The obvious answer is the pair needs time together, but that's only true if Crotty is the long-term solution at second-five.

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3) High ball

Usually a strength of Steve Hansen's sides-exemplified when Ben Smith started one memorable break that led to Waisake Naholo's try between the posts- the All Blacks' ability under the high ball at times left a little to be desired. Instead of being at their most dangerous when settling under loose kicks, too often the ball was left to bounce or the catch was spilled. The All Blacks will also want to have more success in winning back their own ball in the next two tests.

4) Handling

This has probably been a work-on after just about every first test of the international season. A little rust is understandable, as new combinations take time to gel, but the All Blacks put themselves under pressure by throwing a few ill-advised passes as they battled to get going in the first half. And some players' skill set let them down, both under the high ball and in general play, with Naholo especially guilty. Starting with secure handling will be a big priority in Wellington.

- NZ Herald

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