'Take the ref out of it': Whitelock's message to All Blacks
The All Blacks slow start and limp finish became the focal point of the team’s review of the first Bledisloe Cup match says interim captain Sam Whitelock.
Discipline became an issue as they conceded 18 penalties, and those penalties paved the way for three Wallabies tries in the last quarter to end the match 33-25 after being down 33-8, and, if not for missed kicks, the Australians may have snatched the first test in a late flurry.
“It was a great review as they always are on a Monday,” Whitelock told media on Monday.
“You want to look at some of the things we did really well but then the things we want to improve on. It’s no secret we gave away 18 penalties, it was something that allowed them to get in the game.
“As we said after the game, in the first 15 and the last 15. That’s something we need to be better at, making sure that we are taking the ref out of it.
“Being clearly onside, making good clear, accurate decisions at the breakdown and go from there.”
That was the key message from Whitelock, making sure the All Blacks take the ref out of the result by giving him a clear picture that doesn’t lead to 50-50 calls.
He said it sounds like a simple and easy fix to just follow the laws, but the reality is under pressure in a test match is different.
“It sounds really easy and simple but we get put under pressure in different ways,” he said.
“That’s the beauty of test match rugby. You are put under pressure and this week we have to make sure we adjust to that pressure and make sure we take the ref out of it.
“Instead of going back 10-metres all the time, we can impose ourselves a bit more.”
When asked if discipline was a recurring theme in the All Blacks, Whitelock was mixed in his response. He would be more concerned if the infringements were all for the same thing and the messages weren’t getting through to his side.
“Yes and no. I think if they are all for exactly the same thing, I’d be a little more concerned but there are always things to work on every week. That’s the key one this week.”
The Springboks-Lions series descended into controversy after the first test when South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus went public with an hour-long video detailing 28 referee calls that he had an issue with.
The complaints over officiating soured the feeling around the series as Erasmus’ video went viral and tensions escalated on both sides.
Whitelock said the All Blacks always look at who is refereeing a game and their tendencies, but his side want to avoid becoming obsessed with one man on the pitch.
He said at times it is just better to worry about your own things as that’s where the solution sits most of the time.
“You always look at who’s refereeing and some of the traits they have. In saying that, though, you don’t want to become obsessed with one person,” he said.
“For myself personally, I’ve got to go out there and play well. The ref never tells you what you should or shouldn’t have done. That’s on us as rugby players. We got to make sure we do that first.”
The job as captain for Whitelock is to make sure information is flowing, and the coaches will get interpretations sorted out during the week if there is any areas that they are not sure with.
“For me as captain at the moment, I’ve just got to make sure I’m working with the referee and that information goes both ways. If they are seeing something throughout the week, Fozzy and crew are obviously talking, clips go back and forth at times.
“But at other times you are better off just to worry about our own things. That’s where it sits most of the time.”
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