All Blacks: Forwards arrive in Rome with collective sense of dread

By Gregor Paul in Rome

All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Jason Oxenham
All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The messages will be simple and clear when they come. They won't be sugar-coated either, which is why the All Blacks' forwards arrived in Rome with a collective sense of dread about their performance at Soldier Field being reviewed by the coaches.

The forwards know what happened. They know they didn't arrive with the right mental approach or that if they did, they failed to show enough evidence of it.

Their lineout work was sloppy for 40 minutes, they were dominated at the contact zones and they failed to look after possession well enough.

Black marks all round and all those who played - and those who didn't - don't particularly need to be told where it went wrong.

But that's not how life works. Self reflection is important, will get individual minds attuned to their failings. However, for the process to be truly cathartic, it requires a group session of coach-led feedback to lay everything bare.

This is life for the All Blacks win or lose. Nothing changes in that respect - they full debrief after every game and find the things they didn't get right as much as they review the bits that they did.

Defeat simply means the negative stuff will take longer to get through and there will be longer than usual periods where players will be squirming on their chairs as they see - with their peers in attendance - their mistakes in full view.

"There are things we are going to learn and be reminded about obviously," said Charlie Faumuina. "Everything starts up front and those guys [Ireland] played the full 80 minutes and we were a bit behind them on the eight ball. We will learn from that and take that forward to Italy."

Defeat has typically been a useful correctional tool for the All Blacks - a strong driver of attitudinal change. And it will need to be again on this occasion as a reasonable argument could be mounted that the All Blacks' forwards weren't quite on the money in their previous game either.

There were periods of the test against Australia at Eden Park where they couldn't get their hands on the ball and seemed to be struggling with the impact of the Wallaby pack. The All Blacks turned the game around midway through the second half when they pounced on an Australian mistake and scored a superb counter attack try.

That difficulty in coping with the physicality of the contest was more obvious against Ireland where the All Blacks only managed a 15-minute period where they consistently played in front of the gainline.

For the remainder of the game, it looked like they stood back a little, let the Irish take it to them and play at the pace and in the areas that they wanted.

Being reactive or passive isn't going to be an option for the All Blacks on the remainder of this tour if they want to win the three games they have left.

"After a loss you try to learn as much as you can," says Wyatt Crockett. "What went wrong, where were we lacking and I guess try to make some adjustments and improvements to our game and work on that during the week at training and hopefully we will see improvements in our game against Italy."

- NZ Herald

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