There are a few obvious parts of their combination that Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown will be focusing on in Wellington following a season opener that was promising but at times loose.

The midfield was no different to any other part of the All Blacks performance at Eden Park in that it took a while to settle.

There was a bit of poor timing on occasion that blighted their progress, but more particularly there was some wayward skill execution that Lienert-Brown has taken responsibility for and promised to fix this weekend.

The youngster, so smooth and efficient in his All Blacks career to date, made a couple of handling errors in quick succession where he dropped a kick-off and then spilled a short pass when he lifted his eyes at the last minute to assess the French defensive threat.


He put those mistakes behind him to produce a strong and at times compelling second half, but he says his focus this week is to execute the basics.

"I thought we did our core jobs pretty well last week but there is definitely improvement [to be found] in myself and my skill-set because I was a little bit disappointed with some things," he said.

"We are always working at getting better but it is not just Crotts and myself, it is about the whole midfield, all five of us, reconnecting really well."

When he was asked about any specific remedies he'd been working on, he replied: "Probably keeping my eyes on the ball and making sure I catch the thing."

Perhaps one of the factors behind Lienert-Brown's distracted handling was the presence of French captain Mathieu Bastareaud, who imposed himself and played with agility.

At 128kg, Bastareaud is not built like any other midfielder in the game, but although he may not turn easily or quickly, he is quick and nimble enough to defend his space and find it when he attacks.

He managed to land heavy tackles on Lienert-Brown and it felt like the All Blacks centre became a little wary — keeping an eye out for where the threat was coming.

"He's obviously a bit of a beast," Lienert-Brown said.

"You can talk about match-ups a lot but I'm probably glad I don't have to tackle him a lot or run at him a lot.

"We know the dangers that he possesses and we definitely talked about it during the week. It is about shutting down his strong ball carry and his offloads. That is something we are aware of."

What the midfield duo are equally aware of is that the French, despite losing the first test by a considerable margin, will still be a significant threat in Wellington.

They have brought in fresh legs and will most likely have been focusing on what they achieved in the first 50 minutes at Eden Park rather than fretting about how things went in the last 30.

The French have become a touch Anglicised in recent years — perhaps as a symptom of the influx of foreign players into their club sides — but they still have a volatility within their collective temperament which means they can erupt into life and find their flow in an instant and from the most unlikely circumstances.

Hammered one week, they could bounce back surprisingly well the next.

"They will take a lot of confidence out of the first 50 so we have to expect the unexpected given the talent they have," says Crotty.

"You don't have to go too far back to see how dangerous they can be and that is what we are expecting."