'Absolutely dominated the breakdown': The All Blacks' weakness on show
Despite running away with the game in the last 20 minutes, Ian Foster’s All Black side were put under serious pressure at the breakdown where Fiji’s fetchers went at the ball all night.
The lack of security around the ruck cost the All Blacks on many occasions, as Fiji scuppered multiple attacking possessions with turnovers. Fiji’s blindside Johnny Dyer won a game high five turnovers, punishing the lack of strong support around the carry with four of those turnovers at the breakdown.
Fijians show that when you are really physical against the AB’s particularly at the breakdown, you can rattle down & disrupt their tempo. Challenge is to keep it up for 80mins. #NZLvFIJ
— Lani Refiti (@LaniRefiti) July 10, 2021
So proud of the boys, absolutely stunned the AB's at the breakdown. Vern Cotter & co introducing a very different Fiji team to the world. Can't wait to see what new heights this team reaches. Wananavu! ???#NZLvFIJ
— Zhiyad Khan (@zhiyadkahn) July 10, 2021
Johnny Dyer is a one-man turnover machine. Rucks better be aware! #nzlvfij
— Vavaitamana_Official (@Legendary_G) July 10, 2021
Fiji going really hard at the breakdown. Johnny Dyer an absolute nuisance #NZLvFIJ
— The Travelling Reserve (@TravelReserve) July 10, 2021
Johnny Dyer giving New Zealand a torrid time at the breakdown.#NZLvFIJ
— Dylan Jack (@dylmjack) July 10, 2021
Fiji being a meance at the breakdown and hitting hard in tackles. Wonderful to watch #NZLvFIJ
— Zainal Rahiman (@Zainal_Rahiman) July 10, 2021
As a result of Fiji’s control of the ruck, New Zealand Rugby fans were not convinced with the make up of the All Blacks back row without a specialist openside with Sam Cane and Ardie Savea on the sidelines.
Blackadder himself was able to force four turnovers, however just one at the breakdown with the three others coming in contact. He was solid in defence completing 10 of 10 tackles, but the overall inability to deal with Fiji at the ruck as a unit came under scrutiny.
One fan lamented the lack of a specialist 7 in the squad, calling the situation a ‘tough watch’. Another commented that ‘Boshier would’ve loved tonight’, a reference to departing Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier who has been a turnover specialist at Super Rugby level.
Another theorised that the focus on ball-handling skills among the forwards over the recent years has ignored the need for physical force, commenting that ‘suddenly the All Blacks are a team that gets manhandled at the breakdown’.
Maybe, just maybe, bring a specialist 7 into the squad when your main opensides are injured. This breakdown situation is a tough watch from a country that's produced such brilliant fetchers in the past.#NZLvFIJ
— Matt Smith (@MataiGG) July 10, 2021
Time to step it up. Sub Frizell and Sotutu and bring on the boys who can properly clean a ruck! #NZLvFIJ
— ?SP??RTSFan_(''•)_ (@13AdVe) July 10, 2021
For the past 5 years #NZL has been focus on forwards with soft hands and an ability to run on the wing whilst completely ignoring physicality. Suddenly the All Blacks are a team that gets manhandled at the breakdown. #NZLvFIJ
— silverback (@TavonGo) July 10, 2021
The loose combination for the All Blacks looks unbalanced. Luke Jacobson for Sotutu or Papali'i for Blackadder would clear that up.
Retallick is everywhere, making a few mistakes, but no one is busier than him today. #NZLvFIJ
— Richard Neal (@RichardTNeal) July 10, 2021
Sotutu and Frizell too lose, ABs getting dominated at the ruck.. Fiji bringing the intesity #NZLvFIJ
— Will (@mauri_tau) July 10, 2021
Really not liking the AB loose trio with Frizzell and Blackadder in it. #NZLvFIJ
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) July 10, 2021
Boshier would have loved tonight and I’d switch EB back to 6 over Frizzell
— Mike Angel (@djmikeangel) July 10, 2021
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster spoke about the Fijian challenge in the post-match press conference.
“They had moments in the game where they put us under quite a bit of pressure, but overall, I’m pleased with how we came through that,” he said.
“They highlighted a few areas that we are going to have to go and tidy up a little bit. The composure to come back and win by nine tries against a team that chucked everything at us, was pretty pleasing.
When asked on whether the breakdown would be one area to be looked at, Foster responded
“I’m not sure it was physicality, there are a couple of variables at the breakdown. One, you’ve got to look at your ball carry, was he doing enough? The speed of our cleaners versus the height that they are able to get over the ball.
“It was an area they targeted to slow everything down, there was obviously a high penalty count in that position but if we want to play at the tempo we want, we have to keep improving in that space.”
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