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'Fakatava cannot carry you': Ex-All Black's message to the Highlanders pack

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Ex-All Black great Sir John Kirwan has put the onus on the Highlanders’ tight five in the wake of the 60-20 defeat at the hands of the Blues in the opening round of Super Rugby Pacific.

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Facing a Blues side with 13 All Blacks, the Highlanders were there own worst enemy at times as errors fuelled a Blues backline that capitalised on turnovers with deadly counter-attacking rugby.

The home side lost pivotal No 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u in the first half to injury which didn’t help, and they could only manage 20 minutes of competitive rugby whilst the Blues had two yellow cards.

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Speaking on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown Kirwan said Clarke Dermody’s side is ‘in trouble’ and had a stern message for the Highlanders’ pack who ‘need to look in the mirror’.

“The Highlanders are already in trouble I think,” Kirwan told The Breakdown panel.

“Their forwards, and Joey will tell you this everyday of the week, they need to get in and do the hard work.

“Make the tackles, not miss them, hit rucks really hard, not for 20 minutes, for 80 minutes.

“It’s really hard for them but their front five really needs to go to work, really, really work for 80 because Fakatava cannot carry you.

“He cannot keep trying to do that stuff.”

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Recently capped All Black halfback Folau Fakatava returned from an ACL injury for the first time and The Breakdown panel believed he had a good showing that would build confidence despite the lopsided result.

The No 9 had a potential try ruled out and looked threatening on a couple of occasions backing up in support after being out for nine months.

Former All Black Mils Muliaina said that Fakatava showed his true character in a losing side which should boost his stock.

“Often when a team struggles, and the Highlanders struggled in the weekend, he [Fakatava] rose up, he didn’t stand down,” Muliaina said.

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“Those are the players that I sort of look for, to see who actually competes when they are going backwards, rather than getting a nice little ride that perhaps some other teams have.”

It won’t get any easier for the Highlanders who have to rebound against the Crusaders in Melbourne next weekend.

Kirwan said the Highlanders are staring down the barrel of four opening losses to New Zealand sides but have what it takes to spring a surprise on the Crusaders.

“They will need a huge performance this week and they’ve got a hurt Crusaders side,” he said.

“You don’t want to be coming in after our [NZ] round-robin and you are looking at four losses.

“They’ve got to look in the mirror straight away. And they can surprise the Crusaders because they’ve done it in the past.

“I think really, they should be putting it on their front five. They need to get to work.

“I think they worked really hard for 20 minutes, I thought they could do a lot better.”

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