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Foster and Cane pinpoint the major concern for the All Blacks

By Tom Vinicombe
Ian Foster and Sam Cane. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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For the second week in a row, the All Blacks have suffered defeat at the hands of Ireland.

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Heading into the three-match series, Ireland had never won a test against the All Blacks in New Zealand. Unsurprisingly, they’d also never won a series in NZ – and nor had they ever managed to record back-to-back wins over the team that’s haunted them so regularly throughout their history.

The script has now been completely flipped, however, and with the two sides not set to square off again until a potential World Cup quarter-final in France next year, the All Blacks will set out to quickly right the ship.

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A downtrodden Ian Foster and Sam Cane face the media following their series loss to Ireland.
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A downtrodden Ian Foster and Sam Cane face the media following their series loss to Ireland.

The 32-22 loss at Sky Stadium also marked the second week in a row where they found themselves down on the scoreboard early in the game, only to fight their way back into the contest later in the match but ultimately fall short.

In Dunedin last weekend, Ireland scored in the third minute of the match through Andrew Porter and soon found themselves 10 points ahead with a one-man advantage before the home side was able to muster any sort of penetrative attack.

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In Wellington, it was Irish flanker Josh van der Flier who found his way over the line after just four minutes of action and Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw were able to add two further tries before the All Blacks clicked into gear early in the second half.

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Following the series loss, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane both lamented the fact that despite spending much of the week focussing on their poor start in last Saturday’s test, they couldn’t right their wrongs in the rematch.

“We tried hard, we wanted to start well,” Foster said. “Again we made a couple of defensive errors early that put us under a lot of pressure. Came back really strong (after halftime) but they wrestled a little bit of momentum at key points in that second half that really stopped us really having a good crack at it.

“That’s a mark of a confident team that knows their game at the moment and clearly we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

“We didn’t get off to the best of starts,” reiterated Cane. “They’re a hard team to get some consistent momentum against. We experienced it a little bit in the first test but we managed to get things going. Started off this second half fairly well but as Fozzie alluded to, they managed to wrestle it back. It’s hard to get the game flowing.

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“To sum it up, the defensive reads, a couple of softish tries and our inability to build pressure (were the key issues for the All Blacks) – although, when we did hold onto the ball, we did start to find some space and get guys one on one.

“Credit to Ireland, we’ve got a heck of a lot of respect for them as a footy team and players as a nation. They came down here and really tested us and we were beaten by a better side tonight.”

While Foster is confident that the All Blacks can quickly bounce back from the historic loss, he also acknowledged that he couldn’t pinpoint how to fix the team’s run of slow starts.

“We talked a lot about it,” he said. “There’s different things you do at the start. But for some reason, we’re just not as calm.

“It’s more the defence area. We’re getting a little bit fidgety early. We’re letting a few holes and Ireland aren’t a team that you can allow to get behind you. That’s when they play an up-tempo game. And we’ve done that and it’s hurt us. We worked on some things but again we just made a couple of errors early and they got that early momentum.”

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Cane himself was partially at fault for Ireland’s early momentum, with the 30-year-old making an early tackle on Van der Flier and the resulting penalty gifted the Irish a five-metre lineout opportunity – which they took with open arms.

The All Blacks captain said it was moments like those that proved costly at the end of the match.

“I wish I could put my finger on [what went wrong] and we could sort it that quickly,” he said. “We had a lot of confidence going into this weekend because of how hard we’d worked and what we’d been able to put out on the training park.

“But out there, just too inconsistent with the good moments and the bad moments and not able to go back to back. When we go back to back good stuff we look flash, we got the job done for periods. But too many times we’re not backing those up.”

With fellow loose forwards Akira Ioane and Ardie Savea having strong games in the black jersey, Foster made the unusual decision to pull his captain before the end of the game in order to inject Dalton Papalii into the match – but the All Blacks coach said it was simply a case of needing to wrestle momentum back with some fresh bodies.

“We just felt we needed some fresh legs, just trying to keep momentum going,” he said. “So it wasn’t reflective of him or his leadership. We’d got momentum then we’d lost it back again and I just felt we needed to make a couple of tweaks.”

The All Blacks will disband for 10 days before coming back together ahead of the Rugby Championship, which is set to kick off in early August.

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