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'Absolutely dominated the breakdown': The All Blacks' weakness on show

By Sam Smith

Trending on RugbyPass

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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.

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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.

Captain Levani Botia and his midfield partner Waisea Nayacalevu forced another four turnovers between them, with nine of Fiji’s 13 turnovers coming at the breakdown.

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Ian Foster praises Fiji’s physicality

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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.

The All Blacks coaches trialled versatile Crusaders loose forward Ethan Blackadder at openside for the first time, with Shannon Frizell at blind side and Hoskins Sotutu at Number 8.

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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’.

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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'Absolutely dominated the breakdown': The All Blacks' weakness on show

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