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Ian Foster pinpoints who must be held 'accountable' for All Blacks loss

By Alex McLeod
(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster says his backline players must be held to account for their poor decision-making which contributed to his side’s loss to Ireland over the weekend.

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The All Blacks fell to their third defeat to the Irish in five years as they lost 29-20 in stunning fashion in front of a boisterous Aviva Stadium crowd in Dublin.

Throughout the course of the match, the All Blacks struggled for ascendency as Ireland controlled possession and territory for most of the encounter.

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Much of Ireland’s success seemingly stemmed from their dominance in physicality and in the collision zone, but Foster moved to defend his forward pack while speaking to media upon his arrival in Paris on Monday [NZT] ahead of this week’s test against France.

While he acknowledged his big men were outplayed by their Irish counterparts, Foster said his backs need to shoulder some of the blame for their defeat as he believes they didn’t allow the forwards to perform to the best of their ability.

The All Blacks boss highlighted his players’ decision to boot possession away as a sticking point from their second defeat of 2021 after being guilty of the same indiscretion against the Springboks in Townsville earlier this year.

“I think our pack’s gone pretty well through the year. Overall, I’ve been reasonably satisfied to date,” Foster said.

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“Certainly, we got put on the back foot a little bit last night, but parts of our forward play, I thought, was really good.

“But, consistently over 80 minutes, we’ve got to get stronger, and, also, we’ve got to make sure that we’re giving our forwards a chance to impose themselves on the opposition a bit better.

“I thought we turned over a lot of ball in the backs within one-to-two phases again, and that’s something that actually hurt us in the first test against South Africa, even though we won it.

“We got into a similar problem [against Ireland], and that came back to bite us a little bit, so it’s really a matter of backs being accountable for the decisions they make and retaining the ball to give our forwards a chance to impose themselves, and that’s going to be a big part of the solution.”

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In spite of that, Foster deemed a tactical overhaul as unnecessary for Sunday’s [NZT] season-ending clash against Les Bleus at the Stade de France, where a defeat would condemn the All Blacks to their worst test campaign since 2009.

However, he made note that his side tried to overplay their hand too early against the Irish and indicated that the Kiwis must earn the right to play expansively against a French team whose defence is masterminded by English guru Shaun Edwards.

“Our defence has been a considerable contributor to our performance through this year, and I think we are seeing a lot of growth through that space,” he said.

“But, I think when you’re playing a team that you’re asked to make a lot of tackles, and then when you do get the ball, you’ve got to build the right to try and put them under pressure and I think we were a little bit keen on making things happen too quickly.

“When we turned it over, that put us straight into a defensive mode, so we probably needed to build some periods of time in that game that we could actually start putting them under more pressure than we actually did.

“When we did do that, it was actually looking okay, but we didn’t do enough of it.”

Any adjustments to the All Blacks’ game plan will be made over the coming days as New Zealand’s coaching staff conduct a review into what went wrong in the Irish capital.

That review is scheduled to take place overnight, but Foster has already hinted that changes are required if the All Blacks are to breach the advantage line with ball in hand, something they routinely failed to do against Ireland.

With that in mind, Anton Lienert-Brown’s partially dislocated shoulder, which has ruled him out of the France test, could force the inclusion of youngster Quinn Tupaea in the Kiwi midfield given his powerful ball-carrying ability.

“We’ll come up with a plan. There’s some things we’re going to have to do against France and you’ve got to make sure we make a lot of gain line in the game of rugby nowadays,” Foster said.

“We didn’t get enough last week to operate off in an effective way, so we’ve got to find ways through that.

“That’s not just an attitudinal thing, that’s a tactical and skill-based thing as well, so that’s stuff that’s we’ve got to build our plan and process this week and figure out where the best part of the field is to get that, where we see opportunities, versus France, and they’ll be different to Ireland.”

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