Now the Rugby Championship is over, England and Ireland will have nearly all the intelligence on the All Blacks they can get.

And they might like what they see.

The All Blacks' kicking game - poor against South Africa in the defeat in Wellington, better against Argentina in Buenos Aires, but not great again against the Boks in Pretoria - is either an area of weakness or potential improvement, depending on one's viewpoint.

Related to this is the evidence that Beauden Barrett, arguably the world's best No 10, is not comfortable under pressure. Few are, but Barrett in particular can be rattled by the sort of rush defence employed by the Boks and before them the British and Irish Lions and even the Crusaders.


It is something recently commented on by Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O'Gara, a former Ireland first-five, who told Irish sporting website The42: "How I always describe it is this – what does an out-half [first-five] love? Two things: space and time. The first thing you've got to do is take that away.

"If you give Beauden Barrett three seconds on the ball, good night and good luck. If you give Beauden Barrett 0.3 of a second on the ball, you've got a chance."

The All Blacks' kicking game – and this refers to both the halfback and first five-eighth - will be crucial at Twickenham on November 11 and in Dublin a week later, and possibly even against the Wallabies in Yokohama a week on Saturday.

Michael Cheika, Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt will have watched the Boks' defence get dividends with their outside-in formation allied with ferocious line speed, and one of the most effective ways to combat that is via the boot.

Barrett can be excellent here but strangely has been off his game. His cross kicks – kick-passes, often – are usually notable for their accuracy and shock value. But for whatever reason he has gone away from that. His contestable high kicks have also lacked accuracy.
Aaron Smith's kicking game showed improvement at Loftus Versfeld, and overall the intent was better in this department from the All Blacks, but again, the execution often let them down.

One of the key improvements coach Steve Hansen wanted to see before the return match against the Boks was the need for a better kicking game in order to improve his team's running and passing game. The All Blacks are constantly striving for what Hansen refers to as a "triple threat" game and a deficiency in one area will badly affect the other two.

"I don't think this team is ever going to get gun shy," Hansen said two days before the All Blacks' dramatic 32-30 victory at Loftus. "They're speed on wheels, aren't they - they want to run the ball all the time and that's one of the thing [they need to learn].

"Sometimes you just can't, sometimes to get what you want from your running game you have to have a kicking game to set it up. That's one of the big learning things - if you want a triple threat game you need a kicking game."

They haven't quite got there yet. England and Ireland in particular are going to target the All Blacks' No10 hard over the coming weeks. It will be up to Barrett, if he remains fit, to learn to cope with that.