While there were a few impressive performances in last weekend’s 16-all draw, the majority of Ian Foster’s side were industrious if not outstanding.
Take Rieko Ioane, who was perhaps New Zealand’s most threatening player on attack but also made a bad read on defence which contributed to Marika Koroibete’s try and failed to ground the ball for a sure try at the death of the first half.
Foster has made four changes to the starting team for Sunday’s game, largely keeping faith with the XV from last week – which presents a perfect opportunity for his charges to make a statement before the All Blacks head to Australia for the remainder of the test season.
Who, in particular, has the most to prove?
Foster has brought Anton Lienert-Brown in the starting side this weekend and dropped Ioane to the bench. Perhaps that’s because of the already mentioned mistakes made by the 23-year-old, or perhaps it’s simply because Anton Lienert-Brown is a better all-round decision-maker in the midfield.
Regardless, the end result is that Ioane will have to make a massive impact in the second half if he’s to have any hope of starting against the Wallabies in a fortnight’s time.
We’ve already seen how damaging Ioane can be on attack in the midfield, with the former wing causing havoc for opposition defences throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa. The second Bledisloe match of the year could open up in the second half, especially if Auckland’s brilliant weather continues. Last weekend’s match in Wellington, played in the wet and wind, certainly did not suit Ioane. Back on his home turf, he should have all the confidence in the world.
Like many of his teammates, Frizell was assured without really dominating proceedings in Wellington.
The former football goalkeeper has shone for the Highlanders over the past three seasons but has not yet carried that form into the test arena. Foster has ample loose forward coverage at his disposal and Hoskins Sotutu added excellent impact off the bench last weekend and will be pushing for a start.
When the All Blacks take the field against Australia in October for their first Test match of the year, supporters across New Zealand will be cheering from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.https://t.co/gYA0TEwbQa
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 10, 2020
Frizell has also never had the opportunity to get a run of international matches under his belt. In his debut season in 2018, the Highlander played in back-to-back fixtures against Argentina and South Africa while at last year’s World Cup, he started against Namibia and Canada. Otherwise, Frizell has found himself dropping in and out of the team, which is obviously not ideal for establishing yourself in a position where there’s plenty of rivalry for minutes.
Under the Crusaders’ systems, Richie Mo’unga thrives. Under the national set-up, Mo’unga has to play a different type of game – a game that’s he never really looked 100% suited for.
Some critics would suggest that Foster should cater his gameplan to the men he has at his disposal but as it currently stands, it’s up to Mo’ung to prove that he can play the way Foster expects of him.
Prior to Damian McKenzie’s injury partway through the 2019 Super Rugby season, Beauden Barrett was the All Blacks’ first-choice flyhalf with McKenzie operating as the second playmaker from the fullback jersey. McKenzie’s ruptured ACL gave Mo’unga the chance to finally earn some starts and that looks set to continue for the near future.
That could all change, however, if the Mo’uga/Barrett combo doesn’t start reaping results in the near future. It would be entirely unfair to credit NZ’s poor run in 2019 to Mo’unga, but the first five is obviously a key component in any team. With Mo’unga wearing No. 10, the All Blacks managed wins against Australia, South Africa, Australia and Ireland. They also suffered losses to Australia and England, and have also stumbled to draws in Wellington against the Wallabies and Springboks.
McKenzie is still coming into form and there are rising calls for Barrett to take the reins at pivot. Mo’unga needs to silence those calls with a strong performance this weekend.
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