If there is anything that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be expecting out of his side at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, it will be that elusive complete performance.
There is proof in the pudding for that plan too. Another strong All Blacks side for the Bledisloe Cup rematch has been named, and it doesn’t rotate a whole lot in regards to the starting XV.
Experienced leader Dane Coles returns to start in what will be his 50th Test match, and Ryan Crotty (the unnamed leader of the midfield) secures his starting spot ahead of Anton Leinert-Brown. The only question mark, again, surrounds veteran loose forward Jerome Kaino. The latest is that Kaino is still on ‘personal leave’ after damning reports were released last week.
Sonny Bill Williams has also been cleared to play despite some questioning whether the midfielder was actually knocked out for a brief moment during the match last weekend.
All Blacks Need To Work On Closing Out Matches
The opening Bledisloe Cup encounter was story of the typical mixed bag performance for the All Blacks. In parts it was simply brilliant, but in others, seriously wavering in basic execution.
That’s not to say that the game wasn’t exciting, because it really was. Any Test match that sees a total of 88-points scored was an occasion well worth the investment.
The Wallabies won that Second Half, and by a handsome margin of points too. But that doesn’t tell the whole story either.
It was the attitude of the All Blacks in that Second Half, almost entirely different to what was seen earlier in the game. No look passes, missed tackles, and ill-discipline at the breakdown were just three of the problems Hansen’s men had following halftime.
Did the All Blacks tire themselves out during that 40-point blowout in the First Half?
The answer to that question would be no. Players came from the bench and failed to adjust to the style of a game that had clearly changed when the Wallabies finally found their rhythm.
The more possession that the Wallabies had, the better they feared. But also, unlike the All Blacks bench, replacements who came on for the Wallabies genuinely changed the game.
Kane Hames, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, and Scott Barrett all bring relative inexperience to International rugby, so the pressure will be on them to come on in the last quarter and potentially aid in closing out the game.
All Blacks Squad:
15. Damian McKenzie
14. Ben Smith
13. Ryan Crotty
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Rieko Inane
10. Beauden Barrett
9. Aaron Smith
8. Kieran Read (c)
7. Sam Cane
6. Liam Squire
5. Sam Whitelock
4. Brodie Retallick
3. Owen Franks
2. Dane Coles
1. Joe Moody
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Kane Hames, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.
Kick off is at 7.35pm on Saturday night in front of what is expected to be a sell out crowd in Dunedin. More to come soon.
“Main photo credit”