Ian Jones has warned the All Blacks can’t rely on the “Eden Park factor” when they face the Wallabies on Saturday and must urgently address their mindset if they wish to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
Panic overshadowed the nation when the All Blacks fell to a shock 47-26 loss to Australia last weekend at Perth’s Optus Stadium in a match where the New Zealand side were outclassed physically and mentally.
It was far from what is expected from an All Blacks side a little more than a month ahead of the first pool game of the Rugby World Cup and with Scott Barrett copping a three-week ban for a red-carded shoulder charge on Michael Hooper, the side have plenty to prove to both fans and themselves this weekend.
With so much on the line, former All Blacks lock Jones said it was essential the team tackled the clash with a dominant physical approach.
“They’ve got to physically go straight and knock these guys around and get into that zone,” Jones, who played 79 tests for the All Blacks, told the Radio Sport Breakfast. “It’s about ‘this is the fortress, this is All Black rugby, this is how we’re going to beat these Wallabies up,’ and just smack them around in that regard.
“They can’t just rely on this wonderful Eden Park factor, they’ll have to front up to themselves. Do I expect the Wallabies to be able to perform at the level again? Yes, I do … we have to dampen that, we have to physically get into them, knock them around and show them who’s boss.”
With Barrett set to miss out on Saturday’s return test, All Black selectors will be tossing up who to partner alongside Sam Whitelock, with Patrick Tuipulotu a likely option.
A new starting midfield is also a possibility with plenty of talk around who could start on the wing.
Picking three-capped George Bridge to take Reiko Ioane’s place in the starting line up, Jones said it could be a make-or-break game for many of the World Cup hopefuls.
“George Bridge is a guy I quite like … you know what performance you’re going to get out of him,” Jones said. “The work rate that he does, he goes looking for the ball, means he’s involved in the game a little bit more. Reiko Ioane … may have to learn a few of those tricks this coming Saturday night.
“You’d expect Patrick Tuipulotu, big lump of a man, to somehow get up to a 50 to 60-minute performance because we haven’t seen that. He’s a great flyer by all accounts, clearly fit enough, [but] there seems to be something missing.
“If they can get a good 60 minutes out of Patrick, he’ll be off to Japan.”
The All Blacks face the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday at 7.35pm.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.