Brodie Retallick passes ‘test’ as New Zealand storm home

Brodie Retallick passes 'test' as New Zealand storm home
CHOFU, JAPAN - OCTOBER 06: All Blacks player Brodie Retallick wins a lineout ball during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between New Zealand and Namibia at Tokyo Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

In a key ‘test’ of his recovery from a dislocated shoulder, Brodie Retallick played 30 minutes as New Zealand stormed home against a tougher than expected Namibia, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Key, due to the importance of Retallick – the Chiefs leader and former World Rugby Player of the Year. Tougher, as Namibia foiled the vastly superior All Blacks team for much of the first half. A half in which Brodie Retallick proved he was ready to go further in this tournament.

Counting tries and the gap in scoreline will only give you one half of the result. Namibia were full of attitude and counter-tactics to the New Zealand ruck and line of attack. They held firm, and in fact were the first team to score at the Tokyo International Stadium.

They played a fantastic style of rugby, which countered for long periods the World Champions game. It took time to adjust and to interpret how to gain total control, and only by the end did New Zealand exhibit the control they planned on. The All Blacks revived their winning mindset after a stern talking too at halftime, and got back to being the side fans expected.

Head coach Steve Hansen said post-game, “When we get comfortable we allow things to slip, I suppose”. He may not have been happy with parts of the match but, having Retallick fit is a benefit.

Winning has achieved two goals. To maintain their top seeding in Pool B, and crucially for the entire campaign ….Brodie is back!

Brodie Retallick passes ‘test’ as New Zealand storm home

That was a fundamental step in the recovery program for the player, and for the NZ fan base. So much is the influence that ‘Guzzler’ has, he is the one element that can complete this group. Adding his clout to the locking combination, and making that connection within the squads formula.

The All Blacks without Brodie Retallick are incomplete. His return is a huge boost.

Remove other key players, and the strength of the group is also harmed. A team without Beauden Barrett would be less impactful. Without Aaron Smith, Kieran Read or Sam Whitelock, similarly. So returning Retallick to the playing XV was monumental. And, it came one or two games earlier than some had anticipated.

Brodie Retallick
Namibia’s wing Lesley Klim (2L) is tackled by lock Brodie Retallick during the Pool B match in Tokyo. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Retallick returns to contact, as team finish with Flourish

The biggest delight for All Blacks coaching staff will be when Brodie Retallick entered contact. The risk of returning ‘too early’ was high, so it limited his exposure – only 30 minutes. The player would have loved to play longer, but with the later stages of the tournament a priority, having the big lock back on the park was a confidence-boosting stage of the campaign. He hit rucks, tackled and tested his shoulder for most of the first half.

His input was still not enough to improve the opening 40 minutes. But in the end, the team repaired some weaknesses and limited the oppositions scoring to taking penalties only. Retallick now just needs to follow recovery steps, and should start against Italy.

Storm home – yes they did. Although, many will call it a juxtaposed performance. Often good but underlined with poor handling, mis-planned, and disjointed attack; more so from their attitude, but as much due to Namibia.

Like in 2015, this All Blacks group are slowly glimpses of perfection – their final scoring blitz is already up for Try of the Tournament.

Yet they spoiled much of that with half-hearted options in the first 40 minutes. Even while Brodie Retallick worked hard, as did stand-in skipper Sam Whitelock and the Man of the Match, Anton Lienert-Brown (who all showed their potential), Sam Cane and others were sometimes guilty of handling errors, commitment to the breakdown was lacking at times (which Hansen mentioned post-game),  and other un-All Blacks like mistakes.

Mistakes that the team can hardly afford to continue with, in the latter stages. They must show a 25% improvement on their general play at least, especially when the full complement of starters return on Saturday October 12.

This match will not be remembered for a lot. Jordie Barrett at first-five experiment that was quite satisfactory [although, how many more times he plays there in Super Rugby or Internationals, is unknown]. TJ Perenara as a first-five substitute? That was tactical, planning for injuries sake or a yellow card. And that particular discipline issue will be an entirely other conversation.

But the main benefitting factor discovered in the match against Namibia was ‘Brodie Retallick returned to Test rugby’. He passed his own test and will be better for his hit out.

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All Blacks 71 – Tries: Anton Lienert-Brown (2), Sevu Reece (2), Ben Smith (2), Angus Ta’avao, Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock, Jordie Barrett, TJ Perenara; Conversions: Jordie Barrett (8)

Namibia 9 – Penalties: Damian Stevens (3)

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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