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What Sam Cane told his team after opening quarter stalemate against Italy

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/CPS Images/Getty Images)

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The All Blacks underwhelming performance against Italy in the opening stages of the match contributed to high levels of frustration according to returning captain Sam Cane.

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The Italians were able to keep the visitors scoreless in the first 20-minutes which bolstered the home side’s spirits as the Kiwis handling contributed to a number of errors, as well as the return of lineout problems as the inexperienced pack tried to find their way.

Sam Cane spoke about his message to his team after a tepid opening quarter as they tried to get their attack firing, with an emphasis on trying not to look at the scoreboard as the game was locked in a 0-all stalemate.

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“I think at that point in the game it can be easy to switch your attention from what needs to be done to what the scoreboard’s doing and worry about external things so it’s really important to focus in on what we can control,” Cane said.

“Pretty much the process of what’s next and what’s the next task.

“And look, it can be frustrating when we focus on the next task and then don’t get it right so we’ve got to reset and go again.

“Having the ability not to get frustrated, stay in it, and trust that we’ll get it right, and when we do, we can punish them.”

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The All Blacks were finally able to crack the defence in the 27th minute when reserve halfback Finlay Christie scored his first test try. The Blues halfback was able to scoop up a loose ball after the Italians were pushed off their own ball from a scrum five metres out.

After finally getting on the scoreboard, the All Blacks were able to strike again quickly through Dane Coles off the back of a driving maul to build a 14-0 lead. A penalty from the restart allowed the visitors to kick to the corner and pressure the Italian pack again.

Cane said the game was a good ‘learning experience’ for some of the younger players in the side, who were reluctant to be at the front of the haka before the game.

“There were some testing times out there, in terms of the frustration levels when we couldn’t get the game going how we normally would like to but I think as Fozzie said, it was a pretty good learning experience for a lot of the young guys.

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“It probably highlighted the lack of experience when we were trying to set up the haka and a lot of guys wanted to be in the back row.

“It was awesome to get back out there and I think I was proud of the way we didn’t allow frustrations to creep in and affect our game too much.”

Ian Foster said his side probably tried to ‘force’ things too much but credited the Italians for the way they put pressure on early in the game.

“I think we got put under a lot of pressure in that first 25 minutes and they found ways to slow the ball down,” he said.

“We tried to force our game a little bit and a lot of that was the pressure that they put us under so they probably deserve a lot of credit for the way they started that game, the Italians.

“I think what I was pleased with is that we started to just tighten our game up after a few errors and applied a lot of pressure on them, mainly through our set-piece, and that worked really, really well.

“But they stayed in the game right till the end and I think for this particular All Blacks team, it was a great test match for us to have because we didn’t get it our own way and we had to find a way.”

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