All Blacks: The pressure to finish season on a winning note

By Gregor Paul in Paris

The machine that is Brodie Retallick won't go into shut down mode until the All Blacks are driving out of Stade de France late on Saturday night Paris time.

Preferably, he hopes, they will be leaving with another victory. Retallick has felt the pain of losing a final tour match before. In 2012 he was one of a handful of All Blacks who are still with the team, who experienced defeat at Twickenham - the first the All Blacks had encountered in 20 tests.

It hurt and it nearly happened again in 2013 when the All Blacks were chasing a perfect season. They were on track until the final game in Dublin and only escaped when they scored their miraculous try well after the hooter.

As one of the more experienced players in the team and one of the leadership group, Retallick will be drilling into his teammates this week the need to stay on task; to restrict thoughts to nothing but the job at hand.

He will be one of many voices stressing that defeat in Paris will cast the 2016 season in an entirely different light and make the summer that much harder to enjoy.

"I think that is a real challenge," he says about the final test of any season. "If you look at teams who have come to New Zealand at the back end of their season or previous tours, it is easy to think about hopping on the plane to go home, or what is going to happen in the summer break.

"This team has learned over previous tours that we need to keep our minds right here, right now and focus on the French.

"We have to eliminate talk of what is going to happen after until after the final whistle and to give the respect to the French that they deserve so we can get the job done right.

"The summer will be a lot more enjoyable getting on the plane with a win rather than flying home with a loss."

The harder part of the test against France may be dealing with physical rather than mental fatigue. The All Blacks put in a huge defensive shift to beat Ireland and many of the players were still feeling the affects of that 48 hours later.

But although it may have taken plenty out of players physically, mentally it has given the team plenty of confidence in their defensive system and desire to play for each other.
Now, they nee to use that confidence to get back to playing more attacking rugby and improving their discipline.

"We showed [in Dublin] we know how to make a lot of tackles and that our defensive system is pretty good," says Retallick.

"You make that many tackles and defend the line we way we did, shows a fair bit of character and that we were working hard for each other. We have just had our review and want to find some ways that we can play attacking rugby and hold the ball.

"In the game of rugby, it is inevitable that you are going to get some things wrong and there will be penalties here and there. We would like to minimise it as much as you can but if you are talking three or four penalties a game that is probably acceptable. It is something we would like to get to zero.

"If they are in goalkicking range then that is an opportunity for teams to put 30 points on the board and if not, teams up here kick to the corner and have a driving maul which puts us under pressure again."

- NZ Herald

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