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Anton Lienert-Brown: 'Not a lot of things ... are going to surprise us'

By Tom Vinicombe
Anton Lienert-Brown has constantly proven one of the harder All Blacks back to take down. (Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

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While the Wallabies may have had the tougher July test schedule, the All Blacks are confident they won’t be caught unawares by their trans-Tasman rivals in the opening Bledisloe Cup game of the year this weekend.

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The All Blacks coasted to wins over Tonga and Fiji, racking up over 50 points in each of the three matches they played throughout July. Even in their test against Fiji in Dunedin, where they struggled with the breakdown work and physicality of their opposition in the early stages of the match, they still managed to record a 34-point win come the 80th minute of the game.

In contrast, the Wallabies fought tooth-and-nail to record a 2-1 series win over an admittedly understrength French side, sneaking over the line by 3 points in the first and third tests to nab the well-earned victory.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eye over all the action from the past weekend of rugby.
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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eye over all the action from the past weekend of rugby.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash at Eden Park, however, senior All Blacks Anton Lienert-Brown and Brodie Retallick both noted that while they might not have been put under quite as much pressure in July as their neighbours, they’ve got plenty of players amongst their ranks who are well versed in close encounters.

“You could say [they have an advantage],” said Lienert-Brown. “They’ve played in close matches and I guess the three games we played weren’t as close but we’ve got a lot of experience in this group and a lot of boys have played big games, and that all counts as well.”

Retallick shared similar thoughts.

“Obviously those games went down to the 80th minute, if not a little bit later,” he said. “You can only mentally prepare for that.

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“This team knows. It’s not new to any of these players, they’ve been there before so we know what’s coming and hopefully we can go out there and do our job and it doesn’t come to [shutting out a game in the dying stages], and we’re in control. Obviously you’ve got to be ready for it, but the plan is to go out there and front-foot it.”

Last year, the opening Bledisloe Cup match ended in a draw, with Wallabies utility Reece Hodge narrowly missing a long-range penalty that would have sealed the game for the visitors in Wellington.

While the All Blacks scored comfortable wins in the second and third games of the series, the Wallabies came back strongly to win the final battle between the two sides of 2020, prevailing 24-22 in Queensland.

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Lienert-Brown suggested that he and his teammates took some important lessons from the matches where they struggled for ascendancy and they won’t again be caught by surprise by the men from Australia.

“Every time you play, you take lessons, whether you lose or you win,” he said. “If we think back to the first Bledisloe game last year, they definitely turned up. We’ll take our learnings from that and implement it into this week.

“Obviously they’ll be confident [because] they won the series [with France] and they played pretty well. We know they’re going to be physical and they’re going to want to outwork us so there’s not a lot of things that are going to surprise us, but we know that they’re going to be up for this game and we’ve got to match them physically.”

Retallick was on sabbatical last year and missed the entirety of the test season but the July tests have provided he and the rest of the All Blacks with plenty of insight as to how the Wallabies are continuing to develop their game under Dave Rennie – the man who first selected Lienert-Brown and Retallick for the Chiefs.

“I’ve only seen what they did against the French a few weeks back,” he admitted, “and obviously they had some big forward ball-carriers coming around the corner and then they’ve got some backs that like to run across the line and pick a defender and try and make a decision.

“They’re a good outfit. They’re no doubt going to come at us up front with those forwards like we talked about and I suppose that’s the challenge for us, that we don’t get caught out by what they bring like we maybe did against Fiji down in Dunedin.”

Both teams for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup fixture at Eden Park will be announced tomorrow.

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Anton Lienert-Brown: 'Not a lot of things ... are going to surprise us'

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