WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The All Blacks have had no shortage of advice on how to rectify last week’s 47-26 defeat to Australia but one thing is clear, the forwards must stamp their authority on Saturday’s game right from the first whistle if they are to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
The Wallabies romped to a record 47-26 victory over the world champions in Perth, giving Michael Cheika’s side the chance to get their hands on the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
Cheika’s team were better in every department last Saturday, winning the collisions to get momentum and holding onto the ball to put pressure on a poor All Blacks defensive line.
New Zealand looked shell-shocked at the final whistle after suffering just their fourth loss in their last 25 tests against Australia and hooker Dane Coles said this week they had possibly taken the Wallabies too lightly.
The manner of defeat, albeit by a 14-man side after lock Scott Barrett was sent off for a dangerous shoulder charge on the stroke of halftime, also prompted some naval gazing in rugby-mad New Zealand ahead of Saturday’s game at Eden Park.
While muddled decision making, rusty combinations, poor execution and questionable selections were offered up as reasons for last week’s defeat, for many the answer lay at the feet of the forwards.
“They’ve got to physically go straight and knock these guys around and get into that zone,” former All Blacks lock Ian Jones told Radio Sport on Wednesday.
“It’s about … ‘this is All Black rugby, this is how we’re going to beat these Wallabies up,’ and just smack them around in that regard.
“Do I expect the Wallabies to be able to perform at the level again? Yes, I do … we have to dampen that, we have to physically get into them, knock them around and show them who’s boss.”
Sam Whitelock, who is likely to be partnered in the second row by Patrick Tuipulotu on Saturday in the wake of Barrett’s three-week suspension, added that the forwards had accepted they needed to up their intensity but must also be mindful of their discipline.
Three years ago the All Blacks were labelled “thugs” by the media after a brutal test against Ireland, a match that came two weeks after Joe Schmidt’s side had recorded their first victory over the three-times World Cup winners.
“We want to play hard but we’ve also got to play fair,” Whitelock said.
“We’ve still got to bring that physical edge but within the letter of the law.”
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)