If teams really have started their respective build-ups towards next year's World Cup, then the big lesson for the Southern Hemisphere sides to absorb from the weekend is how much work they will have to do at the breakdown.

Both France and Ireland were quite brilliant over the ball in Wellington and Melbourne respectively and it was their work there that kept the former competitive and won it for the latter.

The All Blacks, as coach Steve Hansen said, were partly architects of their own shortcomings in that area.

There was a sluggishness and sloppiness that affected all parts of their game but left them particularly exposed at the tackles ball area.


Collectively, they were frequently too slow to react, seemingly not anticipating the running line of the ball carrier quickly enough to get to the tackled area first.

Vice captain Ben Smith felt that the ball carriers too often didn't help the cause either as they didn't work hard enough to stay on their feet for long enough to buy the clean out players enough time.

But as much as the All Blacks didn't nail their own work, they still faced a formidable challenge in that area from a French team that benefitted greatly by introducing Mathieu Babillot and Kelian Galletier as flankers and putting a rocket up No 8 Kevin Gourdon after a lacklustre first test.

Bottom line is they owned the All Blacks at the breakdown. They were sharper in movement and appreciation and they were better technically.

France's Morgan Parra being tackled by All Blacks' Ardie Savea. Photo / Photosport
France's Morgan Parra being tackled by All Blacks' Ardie Savea. Photo / Photosport

Their hunger was there and they made the All Blacks pay by stealing their ball almost at will.

And if the All Blacks didn't know it before the test, they should know it now – that the tackled ball area is a major focus for the leading Northern Hemisphere teams.

Ireland provided an equally sharp reminder of that in Melbourne where the outplayed Australia in all aspects but built their supremacy around the work of their pack who managed to take the not inconsiderable turnover ability of Michael Hooper and David Pocock out of the game.

The Irish, through the quality of their rush defence, were able to hit the Wallabies hard on the gainline and dominate their ball carrier.


On the back of that, the likes of Peter O' Mahony and CJ Stander were able to get low and strong to pilfer ball or win penalties to frustrate the Wallabies.

It was a clever way to play and a hint at what lies next year at the World Cup. The Northern Hemisphere sides are expert at forcing opposition teams into playing in narrow channels and isolating ball carriers.

Ireland, France, Scotland and Wales all have packs stacked with men who are expert at the tackled ball area – almost impossible to shift when they get in position.

They move quickly, read the game well and keep the pressure on. That was the beauty of Ireland's performance in Melbourne – they didn't give the Wallabies any room to breathe, didn't give them any space and didn't give them any quick ball with which to work.

The French largely did the same to the All Blacks and who knows what might have happened had they not been a man down.

The Southern Hemisphere sides have been given a sharp reminder of what they will be facing and the All Blacks especially will be spending much of this week fixing their attitude and technical proficiency at what is such a key part of the game.