It’s not necessarily the prospect of back-to-back Test defeats – it happened just a year ago with Australia and Argentina – but for many other specifically New Zealand reasons, the France-All match. Saturday night blacks in Paris have a very important feeling about it.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster put it on their necks following the loss to Ireland, from the safety of their own position to the lack of subtlety of their game to questions about the very fabric of the way whose All Blacks play rugby.
And all this for lack of a forward pass to Akira Ioane at the end of the day at Aviva.
Does this sound unfair? Maybe not. You can use the stats however you see fit, but this was only the second time in 36 test games that an All Blacks team leading at halftime failed to secure the deal. They made 224 tackles at the Aviva on Saturday, Ireland made 96. They were as poor with the ball as I can remember. And the penny falls that Super Rugby is no longer a suitable melting pot for the mega intensity of international rugby test.
It’s understandable that part of this goes to Ian Foster, who was previously part of Steve Hansen’s management team. Of course, when there’s someone with Scott Robertson’s CV in the background, plus the fact that Razor applied and was overlooked when replacing Hansen, then the ground below is always going to feel choppy. There will be questions and a tough summer for the All Blacks, even with a win on Saturday night.
With so many Crusaders players involved in New Zealand, it’s easy to look at Scott Robertson’s Super Rugby record and point to the players he has at his disposal in Christchurch, but he inspires. He’s got a good vision for the game, he’s a maverick, and brings tremendous energy to any setup. New Zealand has been on the road since August, there must be a fatigue factor but from my part of the world the All Blacks looked stale, flat and almost fighting in Dublin which is a awful thing to say. It’s also something I never thought I’d write.
The questions posed in New Zealand this week are legitimate issues. Who are the final starters now? Is this uncertainty a good thing? So many New Zealand defenders (besides Will Jordan) were so average last weekend. Richie Mo’unga, of whom I’m an avowed fan, was like playing in a daze. I don’t know what stole his mojo but when you see him with the Crusaders he takes the line eight times and does five line breaks. Has he tried one in Dublin? I was annoyed by the All Blacks’ inaccuracy, I don’t see Rieko Ioane as a 13, Sevu Reece struggled a lot and the passing just wasn’t on point. Jordan is shiny in black and could be the guy to chase Dougie Howlett’s tryout record.
I’ve known from my time there that New Zealand is trying to change a century of tradition defensively in terms of philosophy. It will take a little. What do people do when the pressure rises? They come back to type and you can see it against Ireland. But the big problem remains to defend the man and not the ball. This made it easy for Ireland to move them. Whether it’s football, GAA, tennis or rugby, there is only one ball on the pitch. There is so much energy wasted focusing only on humans. If you can keep the ball out of the corner of your eye, you have a double advantage. Anton Lienert Brown and Rieko Ioane were constantly caught staring at the man as Ireland circled around the corner.
In high performance sport, the margins are low. On Wednesday of this week, as the haze of euphoria passed through the Irish camp, they should reflect on the fact that only for a marginal forward pass and a midfield stoppage from James Lowe, the All Blacks could have pinched this game. .
It is not to be a killjoy. There are a lot of great takeaways for Ireland. They are incredibly right. We seem to be in a great position mentally for these fall internationals forever and a day. Now is obviously not the right time of the season to peak, but their hunger and energy levels, body language, compared to New Zealand’s, were remarkably different.
Losing 10-5 after a first half when they could barely take a break, frankly, were you worried Ireland would mentally collapse? They did not do it. They won the second half convincingly 24-10, but that says a lot about New Zealand’s ability to hold on as it was a six-point game until Carbery’s last kick. .
We had a dry ball against Japan and New Zealand and these are home games; Ireland should expect to win their home games, even against New Zealand, because if you don’t beat the All Blacks in Dublin in November, you won’t stand a chance next summer there.
If you want to grow as a team, park last Saturday and move on. There is Argentina to come and then the Six Nations. Eight games in total, seven of them losers – playing Scotland and Wales at home is not a picnic, there are trips to France and England and then New Zealand to three times. If you need anything to sharpen the mind, you have it. Let’s see where Ireland is at the end of June.
Even then, there are still 16 months until the 2023 World Cup. It is impossible to take a tour of New Zealand or the 2023 World Cup alone. The tour is now part of the cycle leading to France, but they do. ‘will travel there to win a Test Series – the first ever organized by Ireland. The myth that this is the last chance to donate blood to new talent is easy and outdated. If you’re not on Andy Farrell’s radar among the nation’s top 45 players, you’re not going to the World Cup.
Even in that, there could be, potentially, a bolter. Management have tagged them all at this point and are watching them very closely. The Irish rugby depth chart can go down to 5 x 15 (75 players) but from 75 to 40, you’re talking about The Outsiders. Everything inside the 40 tries to get on the plane.
The discussion in France this week on Ireland has been instructive. Caelan Doris, the speed for this second half try was amazing. It was Codie Taylor that he got into, and the Crusader is a really good player. There was a certain amount of finish in this essay.
I liked this performance by James Lowe. If he can get his solid D, he has a left-footed weapon and his prowess as a striker is justified. Keith Earls didn’t start and there was no Larmour, Stockdale or Zebo. There is great competition boiling under the radar.
âWow, Andrew Porter,â the locals asked me on Monday. They weren’t alone. I had a hard time seeing what it was, but the Leinster accessory was amazing in its 76 minutes.
It was also an important day for Joey Carbery, although it seems like it went unnoticed. Arrived as a replacement with 20 to go, he hit his first cold and a second at 50 m. There were a lot of psychological hurdles he could have succumbed to in that high-pressure stage – including a body that had been compromised for some time – but he did the trick. I was impressed, it was a big day for him.
Ronan Kelleher had his best game for Ireland. But he’s still nuts for that double shift during the refused test. He knows it, or at least he should. In a test match that will be called each time. This is one of the penalties that World Rugby is hot on, to the point where, as coaches, we’ve all been given charts on the subject. Watch out for the All Blacks injured in Paris. It’s a big night in both camps.
President Macron burst into the French camp to wish them good luck this week. Galthie’s players underperformed against Argentina and Georgia so there is a bit of frustration here in the media. Ntamack is in the back at 10, with Danty at 12, and they’ve picked a lot of athletic players and running backs into the field. New Zealand will be calling a big and final performance of the tour, but they’ll be shy I guess. The France coach cannot copy and paste the Irish performance in the Stade de France on Saturday night, but he has players who can cause problems similar to the All Blacks.
I hope I didn’t come across as negative here towards Ireland’s victory. But there is no future in cheerleading. New Zealand’s level of performance at the Aviva is causing concern for the game keepers there. Feeling helpless, making decisions with the ball in hand, throwing passes one after the other, garryowens to nowhere. Sweet mother of Mary.
This is why Saturday evening in Paris is of disproportionate importance.