Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Blacks looking to grow more puff


A fast start and a slow finish will ensure the All Blacks spend most of this week shoring up a defence that appeared to be a victim of fatigue and some creative Irish attack.
It's never easy to defend with venom when the game is won early as it was last night, but the lack of structure and number of missed tackles was high enough to leave coach Graham Henry a little troubled.

"I think we ran out of puff," said Henry. "The Irish played very well [in the second half] and they opened us up. They have a number of world class players in their backline so we have plenty to work on.
"There is plenty of running in the game and a few of our guys haven't played for two or three weeks and they ran out of gas. We got a bit loose and lost our intensity in the second half."

The main goal against Wales will be to produce the power and cohesion that was obvious in the opening 40 minutes. Henry reckoned the Welsh will pose a stiffer challenge, although it's slightly unfair to make comparisons given how hampered the Irish were after Jamie Heaslip's red card.
All Black captain Richie McCaw confirmed it was he the No 8 was trying to connect with. McCaw couldn't divulge much more as the matter is before the judiciary.

"It put them under pressure and the game was over after that," said McCaw. "That's what happens, though, when ill-discipline gets in the way. We played a very good first half but our intensity on defence was not what you would have expected had the game been a bit tighter."

McCaw's opposite, Brian O'Driscoll was largely of the same view. "In fairness, the All Blacks were already in their stride anyway," he said of the red card. "It's tough enough to play the All Blacks at the best of times and that didn't help. It left us chasing shadows but sometimes you just have to suck it up."

If the defence and the lack of defensive bite were the negatives, then the composure and contribution of the new caps was the big positive.
Israel Dagg earned a top review from backs coach Wayne Smith, as did Benson Stanley.

"There are some players who are built to play at this level and he looks like he's built for this level," said Smith of Dagg.

Stanley also settled early and made significant contributions. Smith said the second five brought the maturity and composure they were expecting. Stanley admitted, however, he was in fact majorly struggling with nerves.
"I was doing some deep breathing under the covers [in the team hotel] before the game. I'm not normally that nervous. But after I got my first contact I could tell myself it was just another game of footie.
"The biggest difference was that in Super 14, teams can often roll over in the final quarter. That didn't happen, which I suppose is inevitable when it is your country you are representing."

By Gregor Paul

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