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Analysis: AB's killer switch play

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Analysis: How the All Blacks set-piece switch baffled the Wallabies

The All Blacks’ set-piece attack fired up for a quick strike at a pivotal moment in Bledisloe III, stretching the lead from 20-13 to a two-score 27-13 lead at the 57-minute mark, making a Wallabies comeback that little bit tougher.

Beauden Barrett spoke post-match about the satisfaction of pulling off the play just days after it was installed at training. The coaches brought the idea to the table and the side had troubles executing on the training field.

“It’s satisfying. The coaches presented that at the strategy meeting earlier in the week,” Barrett said. “We trained it a few times but we didn’t train it as well as we put out there, which is pleasing.”

The switch play was cleverly designed to give Rieko Ioane some extra space on the blind side, playing on the fact the Wallabies would break to the open side and using that against them.

The Wallabies also tried a similar play moments later, looking to target the All Blacks in the same space with a designed kick to Israel Folau.

Both plays were designed to target the ‘sweeping’ winger, and both teams had never run these plays this year. Last week we looked at one possible way to target this area with a banana trick play, and both sides seemed to take this on board.

One play worked whilst one play didn’t, but both offered an intriguing insight into a weak spot of the defence and how big-play potential exists by targeting this area.

The All Blacks switch play

The All Blacks used an 8-9 break to the open side before Barrett drops under TJ Perenara. Prior to the play, the Wallabies’ blindside protection is limited to Will Genia (9) and Ned Hanigan (6), with Israel Folau, dropped back deep for the kick.

As TJ shapes to play Barrett underneath, all three Wallabies loose forwards have broken to the open side, as well as Genia (tucked in behind Hanigan out of sight).

Liam Squire (6) will shape as key man, offering a pick’n’roll-type block on Hanigan, forcing him to go over/under him to get back to blind side, buying an extra second for Ioane.

As Barrett releases his pass, Hanigan is stuck in traffic and only Wallabies lock Izack Rodda and halfback Will Genia have unobstructed paths to double back into the open 15-metre channel.

A defining factor on the success of this play is the slow reaction of ‘sweep’ winger Israel Folau. The centre had just been moved to the right wing and showed he isn’t yet accustomed to the position.

At the highest level, being off by half a second can cost your side and it did on this occasion. It requires instinctive anticipation of where the attack is going to be and he isn’t into the shot until a full three seconds after Perenara’s pass.

Ioane is already in full stride with Barrett looping in trail support, and the All Blacks already have an isolated matchup with Ioane one-on-one with Genia.

Israel Folau (13) is directly behind him, out of sync and lacking communication. Both players show a lack of urgency to close down this space, with Genia turning his back and back-peddling a good five metres after identifying the switch, and Folau floating sideways.

Ioane cuts back inside, beats Genia and draws Folau before freeing up Barrett with the offload. As identified in The Lab, if you beat the sweeping blind side winger you can rip off a big play as there is nobody else left to cover you.

The Wallabies switch-kick

The Wallabies also took this concept into consideration when they tried to strike back directly after the kickoff with this attacking kick by Bernard Foley into the space behind the scrum.

This play was very similar to one detailed during the week, except the Wallabies didn’t use the guise of a halfback kick chaser, instead opting for the obvious target of Israel Folau.

The All Blacks leave Israel Folau unmarked on the blind with Ben Smith (14) opting to defend in the front line. The opportunity is there for Foley to hit this play, but he telegraphs the kick before kicking out on the full anyway.

With Ben Smith defending in the front line, Aaron Smith (21) is to perform a sweeping role. Foley is unable to disguise his hand, instead, putting all his cards on the table straight away.

Above you can see Smith (21) reads the kick and immediately drops back to cover it.

Despite the inability of Foley to offer any sort of deception, the play is still on as Folau vs. Smith in the air is still a mismatch, but Foley kicks out on the full despite having absolutely no pressure.

Bernard Foley has been an inconsistent 10 at all levels and has shown once again that ball-playing seems to come unnaturally for the flyhalf.

This simple chip kick could have hit Folau wide open if he offered a little more deception, a quick look to his outside, taking a few steps and baiting Aaron Smith before turning back and making the kick. A criticism of his play is he often telegraphs the play ahead of time to the defence and this time was no different.

The Beale experiment didn’t work but this has papered over the fact that Foley just isn’t the answer either, and a lack of healthy competition has given him the jersey by default.

If you review the tape from this match, these two plays, that were run almost back-to-back, offer the easiest summation of the match – one team can execute and the other can’t.

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Analysis: How the All Blacks set-piece switch baffled the Wallabies