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'Far too predictable': Carlos Spencer slams All Blacks after 'frustrating' performance

By Finn Morton
New Zealand players huddle during the international test match between Japan and New Zealand All Blacks at National Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Rugby legend Carlos Spencer has slammed the All Blacks after a “frustrating” attacking display during their 38-31 win over Japan on Saturday.

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The All Blacks were the heavy favourites ahead of the the fifth official Test match between the two nations, and carried that belief into the Test – racing out to a commanding 18-point lead in just over half an hour.

But tries to Takuya Yamasawa and Yutaka Nagare before half-time fight their way back into the contest, as they trailed by just four points at the break.

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New Zealand then scored two tries to one before star lock Brodie Retallick was sent off for a dangerous clean-out in the 66th minute.

While Japan scored once more through Kazuki Himeno, they fell just short of a result which would’ve arguably eclipsed their famous win over South Africa in 2015.

The All Blacks dominated with 62 per cent possession, but the territory battle was relatively even as the visitors struggled to make the most of their opportunities.

Speaking on Sky Sport after the Test, Spencer criticised the All Blacks for being too “one dimensional” in their attack.

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“So predictable around our attack, it’s frustrating,” Spencer said. “We’re one dimensional, our attack is 90 per cent inside the 15s, we’ve got no options off our back door, we’re so direct.

“Scott McLeod said at half-time, he said ‘we want to go back to being direct’, I’m not sure that’s the answer. We tried to be direct but we’re actually making it easy for them defensively.

“We’ve just got to have a little bit more innovation around trying to have numbers off our back door with maybe another back door, and trying to attack down that 15-metre channel a bit more.

“Far too predictable.”

Since losing to Argentina in Christchurch, the All Blacks ended their Rugby Championship triumph with three consecutive wins, including two against the Wallabies.

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But even though they hadn’t played in over a month, and with disruptions during the week, Spencer called on the playing group to take some responsibility.

“I think you’ve got to (consider the disruptions) a degree. Coaches and players have got to take a bit on their shoulders as well, cause we’re a far better team than that and we’re far better individuals than that,” Spencer added.

“I just think our mindset’s wrong. When we’ve got coaches talking about being direct after we’ve just spent 30 minutes being direct, we’ve got to have that ability to change in the moment.

“I’ve got the put the onus back on the players, they’ve got to start reading pitches and opportunities out on the pitch. They can’t reply on coaches getting those messages to them all the time.

“Our mindsets got to change I think.”

Next up for the All Blacks is a trip to Cardiff’s Principality Stadium where they’ll take on Wales for the first time in over a year.

The last time the two proud rugby nations met in Cardiff, New Zealand earned themselves a convincing 54-16 win.

The All Blacks then round out their Autumn Internationals with Test matches against Scotland at Murrayfield, and England at Twickenham.

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finn 5 hours ago
Mick Cleary: 'England fans are entitled to be grumpy and weary'

“no stand-out talent that would trouble the selectors of a world XV. Until that status changes, then they will be confined to this mid-table (at best) mediocrity.” I really think this is nonsense analysis. Finn Russell isn’t better than George Ford. Jamie George is the third best hooker in the world after Marx and Sheehan. Ben Earl would probably start for any team in the world bar Ireland, and the same goes for Ollie Lawrence when he’s in form. The problem England have is (1) people hate their style of play, so will always overlook players like Ford and George when comparing them with more flashy alternatives; (2) that people expect England to be one of the best teams in the world, so when they fall short it is held against them. Finn Russell has far more poor games than George Ford, but because Scotland aren’t expected to be consistently winning trophies it isn’t a scandal when he does play badly. Conversely if Ben Earl was playing for scotland, or wales, or italy, everyone would be blown away by his performances, but because he’s only playing slightly better than we expect english back row players to play then he’s not given the plaudits he arguably deserves. I say “arguably” because ultimately I don’t think it matters whether we value individual players accurately or not. I’m not aggrieved that english players don’t get selected in world XVs, I just don’t think its a good explanation of a nation’s performances!

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