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What TJ Perenara says the All Blacks have to improve on

By Finn Morton
(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Don’t put it down to the luck of the Irish, the All Blacks were well outplayed by Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday morning [NZT]. In what was a clinical and near perfect performance from the home side, Ireland controlled the game on their way to a 29-20 win.

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Considering their defensive workload, the All Blacks did well to claim a surprising 5-10 lead at the break after having made a considerable amount of tackles in the first term.

By the time referee Luke Pearce signalled an end to the Test, the men in black had made 210 tackles to Ireland’s 74. Ireland also had 61% of possession and secured three more turnovers than their opponents on their way to another historic victory.

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All Blacks coach Ian Foster didn’t empty his bench in this Test with scrumhalf Finlay Christie and lock Tupou Vaa’I both not looked to for impact.

Christie has been one of the standout performers from the Northern Hemisphere Tour in his two games, having impressed in matches against both the United States and Italy.

But with the Test against Ireland clearly coming down to the wire, Foster kept the experienced TJ Perenara on the park who played his 78th international in the nine-point loss.

After the Test, Perenara commented on the “tough game”, but also how as a player you want to be on the field in big games like that.

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“There’s a lot of physical altercations out there, like I made a few tackles, had a few carries out there, but it’s like you want to be out there in those games,” Perenara said after the 29-20 loss.

“You want to start them, but you also want to be in those games at the clutch too.

“I was obviously disappointed that we didn’t get the opportunity to put Finlay (Christie) on, I’ve been in that situation a few times and it’s not ideal. You want to be playing footy as well.

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“But for me, like I felt really good out there.

“Probably if you asked me that question tomorrow, I’d probably say I’m a little bit more sore. But at the moment I’m feeling alright.”

Including the tense loss to South Africa on the Gold Coast, the All Blacks have won three of their last five matches. After the loss to the Springboks, the All Blacks recorded three consecutive wins over the United States, Wales and Italy.

But the result against Ireland will likely present plenty of lessons for the All Blacks as they eye improvement in key areas less than two years out from the World Cup in France.

“I think straight off the bat for me, it’s (that) teams are going to try and hold the ball against us. Like when we have the ball for long periods of time, (we’re) pretty hard to stop.

“So the easiest way to stop our offence is probably hold the ball for longer so that’s in my mind, what I take from it.

“I think other teams that will come up against us will look at the way Ireland played, look at how many phases they went through and be like, ‘Man, if we can take the ball away from the All Blacks, we make it harder for them to win football games.’

“I think there will be other learnings obviously but the big one from me is teams will probably hold the ball against us a little bit longer. So we need to find ways to get the ball back and then when they do have the ball, how can we be better?”

Running out to the Aviva Stadium for the first time since November 2018, the All Blacks were met by a vocal Dublin crowd. Uncharacteristically, the usually quiet supporters broke out into a chorus during the All Blacks’ challenge of Kapa o Pango before kick-off.

During the match, the crowd continued to play their part by chanting and singing to a fever pitch as their countrymen performed to an almost perfect standard.

“Yeah it’s a special place to play man. There’s some unbelievable stadiums all around the world to be completely honest but being able to play at Aviva, have (had) the opportunity to play here a few times, it’s a special place.

“It’s really loud, but we prepped for that as well. We understand that it’s going to be loud, that there’s going to be momentum swings throughout the game where (the) crowd will make it harder for us to communicate to each other more than anything.

“But those are the arenas you want to be in, that’s why you play the game.

“We didn’t get it right today, yeah we didn’t get the result we wanted. But you ask every single person in our circle, we want to be back in those arenas week after week.”

The All Blacks will play their final Test of 2021 on Sunday morning [NZT] when they take on France is Paris.

With the two sides set to meet in the pool stage of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, this will no doubt be a key game for both sides.

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