All Blacks: George Moala heading home, good news for Crotty and Retallick

By Gregor Paul in Chicago

After a barrage of bad news and tough to take events, the All Blacks had a little relief before they left Chicago when Ryan Crotty was diagnosed with only a minor hamstring strain and Brodie Retallick hopped on a plane to meet the squad in Rome.

The prognosis wasn't so good for George Moala, who has headed home after tearing ligaments in his elbow and he will be replaced by Seta Tamanivalu.

Crotty is expected to be fit in time to play against France which means that the All Blacks will most likely work a combination between Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa against Italy and Ireland with Tamanivalu as an other specialist option.

It's unlikely they would consider starting Ben Smith in the midfield but he does provide cover for both second-five and centre - positions he has regularly filled in the final quarter of recent tests.

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"Everyone is a bit sore, but probably the biggest part that is sore is their pride," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen before the team left for Italy.

"This team is about history and it has still got a lot of positive history. We can't change it. Ireland played better than we did and deserved to win. "When you look through the ages I can think of Christchurch (2012) when they probably should have won; Dublin (2013) when they probably should have won. They came out this time and played really well so look, I don't think it is something that is going to hang around our necks and strangle us to death because we lost to a good Ireland side. What we have got to do is fix the issues in our game."

Those issues were easy enough to spot in Chicago. The lineout took too long to settle and some of that was down to the throwing, some of it the timing. Given the excellence of the lineout throughout the year, Hansen said he was reasonably comfortable that normal service will be resumed after a quick debrief.

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Some of the basic pass and catch was sloppy and again that's not a reason to panic as the All Blacks have shown the most amazing execution of basic skills this year. Losing once does not make them bad players overnight.

Probably, though, the biggest work-on is in the attitude and mind-set of the forwards who allowed themselves to be dominated. The All Blacks have been at their best this year when they have hit opponents hard from the start - been physical, aggressive and dominant in the contact zones.

They were a little off against Australia at Eden Park and were down a level again against Ireland.

There is, however, usually no better remedy to attitude than defeat. Typically the All Blacks have responded well to losing. They don't like it much and it serves as a useful reference point to reconnect with al the parts of their game that need to be right for them to play the way they want.

"That has been the case in the past so the challenge now for this group is to be able to do that," said Hansen. "[They have to] Get themselves up off the floor and have a good look in the mirror - the coaches included - and what can we do that we didn't do right and then front up against Italy then Ireland and France."

- NZ Herald

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