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'A load of bollocks': Justin Marshall on the All Blacks' inconsistencies

By Ned Lester
Ian Foster looks on at All Blacks training at Murrayfield. Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images

Ex-All Black Justin Marshall has asked some significant questions of Ian Foster as the All Blacks head coach continues to trial new game plans and starting lineups throughout the Northern Tour.

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The All Blacks named what appeared to be Foster’s top team against Wales two weeks ago but then issued nine changes for the Scotland test, including one debutant in Mark Telea and the return of TJ Perenara, who along with Brad Weber, has found himself cycling into the squad from the All Blacks XV.

Foster was determined to build his combinations throughout The Rugby Championship, naming as close to the same side as injuries allowed each week but that philosophy appears to have been left at the departure lounge.

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“The tinkering just continually confuses me,” Marshall said. “I feel that there’s a semblance of a game plan one week and then it changes for some reason.

“The All Blacks went to a lot different type of kicking strategy to try beat Scotland’s defence – they’re a very good defensive side Scotland, in fact, they’re in the top three in the world at the moment on their tackle percentage ratio.

“So, the All Blacks maybe thought that they wouldn’t be able to go through them as much as what they went through Wales, but I sort of thought this is reverting again to a different type of game plan.”

The All Blacks deployed different game plans against each of their Rugby Championship opponents, using any and all of their four kicking threats (Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, David Havili and Jordie Barrett) depending on the defensive structures being thrown their way.

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“Instinctively, I’ve always banged this drum, we want to use the ball where we can,” Marshall continued.

“There’s still a few things that are not quite right to me.

“Certainly, there’s been progress, I certainly feel that individuals seem better in the current culture so the tweaks and changes he’s made within the coaching group have obviously made a difference because certain individuals are playing a lot better which helps.

“But, look it’s far from the finished product yet, I feel there’s been improvements but I still feel that there’s something not quite right in there that the All Blacks are certainly not a team that people are seeing at the moment as the team to beat come Rugby World Cup… and every weekend.”

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Ex-All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen had appeared on the show the day prior, expressing support for Ian Foster’s selections and emphasising the importance of giving different players time on the field ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Marshall had no hesitations in sharing his thoughts on Hansen’s comments.

“yeah, look that’s Steve Hansen’s opinion. I know him well and I’d be happy to have a beer at the pub with him and tell him that I think that’s a load of bollocks, to be perfectly honest.

“I’m not sure whether he’s saying that because he’s trying to defend some of Fozzies (Ian Foster’s) decisions because he knows him well, but I certainly don’t feel that the All Blacks are doing themselves any favours by continually changing and changing ten players or eight players whatever it might be.

“Good sides don’t do that. Super (Rugby) sides don’t do that from week to week just in case they’re not going to have players available, they simply put the players out there.

“They formulate a winning culture and they get stuck in.

“These players have got to be able to play three, four World Cup games, big ones, on the bounce.

“So, I’m not all about preservation I’m not about finding out, if you don’t know by now then the horse has bolted, unfortunately.”

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