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‘We’ve been building’: All Blacks look to ‘take a step forward’ against Wallabies

By Finn Morton
All Black Captain Sam Cane leads the Haka during the Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Mt Smart Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brett Phibbs-Pool/Getty Images)

After winning The Rugby Championship and retaining the prestigious Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks are looking “to take a step forward” when they face the Wallabies in Dunedin this weekend.

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The All Blacks have been quite brilliant under Ian Foster this year. In fact, this might be the best they’ve looked under Foster, who has taken the team to an all-new level alongside Jason Ryan and Joe Schmidt.

Having won three games from as many Tests, the New Zealanders have certainly moved on from the horrors of last year – they were beaten by Ireland, South Africa, Argentina and just snuck by Australia.

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The All Blacks started their international campaign with a dominant win over Los Pumas in Mendoza, and backed up that showing with another promising display against the world-champion Springboks in Auckland.

But the men in black saved their best for last. Playing at the world-famous MCG last Saturday, in front of almost 84,000 too, New Zealand put on a second-half clinic against the wounded Wallabies.

“We’re pretty proud of the performance last week. We certainly had to work for it, they tested us in a lot of areas,” All Blacks captain Sam Cane told reporters on Friday.

“We held pretty strong with the fact that we only let the one try in, we try to work on our defence, and hopefully tomorrow we can take another step forward.”

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In the minds of the All Blacks and Wallabies, I’m sure, there is no such word as ‘dead rubber’ when either team ventures into enemy territory.

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The All Blacks may have won last week, and retained the Bledisloe by doing so, but this is still New Zealand versus Australia. In southern hemisphere sports, it doesn’t get much better.

Samipeni Finau and Shaun Stevenson will also debut after being named in the starting side, while Dallas McLeod could also become All Black No. 1213 off the bench.

“We’ve got three guys, two definitely making their debut and one potentially, and a lot of guys having an opportunity,” Cane added.

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“On top of that, we know that where we’re at right now is not what’s going to be good enough later in the year.

“Every time that we get a chance to take the field as a team is a chance to take a step forward and get better, and ultimately get to where we want to get to.”

This time last year, New Zealand rugby fans were panicking. With the World Cup nigh on the horizon, the All Blacks weren’t tracking in a winning direction.

It was time to sound the alarm – almost. New Zealand Rugby stood by coach Foster, and that decision has worked wonders so far in 2023.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
5
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
36
20
First try wins
20%
Home team wins
40%

“I certainly felt, and I have felt for probably the last 18 months or so, that we’ve been building to a pretty good spot.

“I suppose it’s pleasing that it’s starting to show on the field, the squads in a really good spot as a whole. We see that by the selectors being bold and making a lot of changes for tomorrow night.

“Hopefully if our prep has been on point and we’re where we need to be, we’ll still get another really good performance.”

The All Blacks take on arch-rivals Australia at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium at 2.35 pm NZST on Saturday afternoon.

It’s their last Test on New Zealand soil before heading off to Europe ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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