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All Blacks get 'real honest' on another underwhelming forward pack performance

By Ned Lester
Scott Barrett fronts media for the All Blacks. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

After five strong performances to start the year, the All Blacks forward pack has come under immense pressure in their last two outings from the huge South African and French outfits.


There’s no way to compete in the Rugby World Cup without a dominant set piece, an area where New Zealand have traditionally excelled.

Also with a sterling track record is forwards coach Jason Ryan, a man with a reputation for never letting in lineout maul tries and conducting some of the world’s most clinical forwards units.

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Ryan has helped the All Blacks pack turn a corner over the past 12 months, but World Cup time has turned up the heat and New Zealand weren’t up to the task in the opening match.

“I think that’s a real honest appraisal and I agree with you [that they need to step up],” Ryan responded to reporters’ comments in Lyon. “We know that this test match against Namibia is really important for us as a forward pack.”

As is the All Blacks way, any negatives from the match were framed as “learnings”, but that’s not to say Ryan isn’t willing to ask the hard questions of his team. Since joining the camp, the former Crusaders guru has implemented a higher standard of accountability and willingness to have difficult conversations.


As All Blacks legend Richie McCaw said after the France loss: “Keep positive, but be real about the things you need to fix.”

Positives from the match include improved discipline from the forward pack compared to their previous outing at Twickenham, a crucial step in the right direction for the team.

“If you look at the common themes of this World Cup it’s discipline, set piece pressure and kicking,” Ryan continued. “And I think we learned a couple of valuable lessons in all of those areas to be honest.

“What we’ve also noticed is the ball and the humidity, it’s quite greasy and the jerseys are really wet. There has been a couple of turnovers from ball carries from all teams and adjusting to that and training with wet balls is important for us.


“It’s been said a couple of times; it’s probably going to be the closest World Cup there’s been in a while. All the teams are really raising the bar.”


The man who paid the price for the indiscipline at Twickenham was Scott Barrett, the influential lock who had a superb outing in the losing effort in Paris.

Barrett was adamant the engine room in the team was firing but admitted there was work to do to turn the results around.

“I don’t think we are lacking any determination,” he said. “There is plenty of hunger and drive in the group.

“Twickenham, that hurt I guess. We weren’t up to the mark there, we were well off physically, sort of out-powered. On Friday night (against France) particularly around the scrum there was a few little games being played but we’ve got to adapt.

“There is plenty of fuel in the tank. This group wants to keep getting better. There is no lack of drive off the back of that loss.”

The good news for the forwards is reinforcements are en route in the form of Ethan Blackadder. The nine-Test All Black is renowned for his work ethic and will add depth to the depleted loose forward stocks.

“Ethan, he will step in and bring plenty of energy and an engine that just keep chugging, like a diesel. That’s what he brings and the boys love what he does.”


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