Saturday, November 29, 2008

Concentration on defence pays off - 30/11/2008

Successful All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said after the side's 32-6 triumph over England that the team's concentration on defence paid big dividends on its Grand Slam tour - its second in three years.It was 57 minutes before the first try of the game was scored, to fullback Mils Muliaina, but having finally subdued a fizzed-up England side, the All Blacks played the sort of rugby they wanted in the final quarter, he said.While there had been no try-scoring action earlier, McCaw told Sky Sports that what happened in the second half was often the result of work done in the first half.The turnover scrum which produced the first try of the game had been indicative of the pressure the All Blacks could bring to bear during the second half of games.

"It indicates the attitude and heart of the team is defence," he said."Defence is what wins games."

That defence was never more tested than during the electrifying break from the second half restart when England No.8 Nick Easter was able to penetrate the defences and looked headed for a certain try only to fall at Muliaina's ankle tap just short of the line.The All Blacks absorbed England's assaults for the line and then cleared the ball perfectly to keep their line uncrossed during all four internationals of the tour.All Blacks coach Graham Henry said the success was 'outstanding'.

"The boys came through in the second half. It was very enjoyable and was top rugby. I'm delighted."They are difficult teams to play, they kill the ball. It is very difficult."

Henry said the team had grown during the season but added that it had more growing to do yet."They are a very special group. New Zealanders should be very proud of the team," he said while also thanking the selection team which had reappointed himself and Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith after the disappointment of the World Cup.

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