Barrett: The 'non-negotiable' aspect the All Blacks must front up on
They All Blacks have been the subject of plenty of criticism this week after they were outmuscled at the breakdown and in the collision zone in last week’s 57-23 victory over the Flying Fijians in Dunedin.
While the scoreline reads a 34-point win for the All Blacks, Ian Foster’s men were put under a heap of pressure throughout the test match at Forsyth Barr Stadium as the Fijians outshone their Kiwi counterparts up front.
Whether it was a bone-crunching tackle or a clutch piece of defending to pilfer the ball on their own tryline, Fiji came up trumps from a physicality standpoint for the first 60 minutes of the match.
That, in part, allowed them to stay just eight points astray from the All Blacks heading into the final 20 minutes of the game before a lack of conditioning, as a result of quarantine restrictions, and New Zealand’s bench options blew the scoreline open.
Much has since been made about Fiji’s prowess at the breakdown, and Barrett made it clear that’s an area of which his side need to improve on if they want to avoid another fright at FMG Stadium Waikato this Saturday.
“You guys are probably well aware, there’s been a lot of talk about the breakdown,” Barrett, who was rested for last week’s match, told media on Tuesday.
“I think every test fixture that the All Blacks come in, teams are going to be coming at us, especially up front. The physicality is a non-negotiable of test rugby and All Blacks rugby, so we always have to front up there and we’re well aware of that.”
The 27-year-old added that there were other aspects of New Zealand’s game that needed improvement as well, most notably their option-taking with ball in hand.
The kicking game of Barrett’s brothers, first-five Beauden and fullback Jordie, have come under scrutiny in the post-mortem of last week’s match.
Ex-All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson and former Black Ferns midfielder Hannah Porter led the criticism of the playmakers’ kicking on The Breakdown earlier this week, while Sir John Kirwan called for better decision-making from midfielder Rieko Ioane.
Barrett said those weaknesses of the All Blacks’ game have been acknowledged within the camp, and the playing group are eager to make amends in those respects in three days’ time.
“All across the field, just our options and how smart we are with the ball in hand, and also our defence, how we can put teams under pressure,” the 41-test international said when asked what lessons he and his teammates had taken from last week’s match.
“I’ve certainly noticed him on the training field, heavy shoulders and clean outs at the breakdown. It’s great for this group and it’s his game. He’s a physical player and a smart player as well,” Barrett said.
The All Blacks are scheduled to kick-off their second test against Fiji on Saturday at 7:05pm NZT.
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