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Will Jordan lifts the lid on where the All Blacks went wrong in 2021

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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All Blacks star Will Jordan has identified where his side need to improve next year after finishing their 2021 season with successive defeats to Ireland and France.

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Despite completing the year with 12 wins from 15 tests, New Zealand’s three defeats at the hands of the Springboks, Ireland and France left the All Blacks with their worst season record since they lost five matches against France, the Springboks and the Barbarians in 2009.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster subsequently came under plenty of public scrutiny from fans and media amid growing concerns about the tactical and selection aspects of New Zealand’s game plan after they struggled against the world’s elite sides.

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Jordan, who was among the standout All Blacks this year, has since moved to address his side’s defeats this year, outlining where improvement is needed over the coming months.

Speaking to the What A Lad podcast, hosted by former Hurricanes fullback James Marshall, Jordan revealed game management, ball retention and a more effective attacking blueprint have identified as key areas that need to be improved on by the Kiwis.

Jordan’s comments come after Foster’s coaching staff and senior players underwent a thorough post-season review while in MIQ upon the team’s arrival back in New Zealand from their extensive three-month global tour.

Between August and November, the All Blacks traversed six countries to play 10 tests across three continents, but it was in Europe where they came unstuck in the face of a well-organised Irish outfit and a resurgent French team.

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Jordan told What A Lad that while the All Blacks haven’t had an opportunity to review their 40-25 loss to Les Bleus, the side has learned plenty of lessons from their 29-20 defeat to Ireland.

Throughout that match, the hosts produced a stunning performance in which they starved the New Zealanders of possession and territory to comprehensively outplay them, leaving Jordan and his teammates to pinpoint where they went wrong.

“Game management was a pretty big one, particularly off the back of that Irish test,” the 23-year-old said when asked of what was discussed in his team’s end-of-year review.

“I guess, as a team, we haven’t reviewed that French game too much, just because we flew out the next day, but, particularly the Irish game, I thought the Irish were outstanding in that game. They really threw it at us and I think it was 170 tackles or something in that first half.

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“We were sort of holding on for dear life, so it was just about, ‘How can we hold more ball and be more and be more effective when we’ve got it?’, because any time you have to make 170 tackles in a half, then it’s going to be reasonably tough going.”

Jordan added that the two losses has left “a sour taste” in the mouths of himself and his teammates heading into their off-season, but maintained that there are positives to take from the elongated trip abroad.

From a personal standpoint, Jordan enjoyed a stellar campaign where he scored an incredible 15 tries from 11 tests, a strike rate that won him nomination for World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.

That feat is made all the more impressive given it was just his sophomore season of test rugby, during which time he faced the world champion Springboks and toured the northern hemisphere for the first time in his international career.

Furthermore, the 13-test starlet said that, off the field, their extended time away from New Zealand also enabled members of the squad to develop an understanding of one another that might not have been possible under normal circumstances.

“It was cool to just get away on tour with the All Blacks last year, but probably to be able to get away again and, for me, getting up to the northern hemisphere for the first time, playing in the environments up there, which can be pretty daunting with just how vocal the crowds are,” Jordan told What A Lad.

“Even playing the Springboks for the first time, it was just cool to be able to get stuck into those environments.

“I guess, as a team, we had plenty of time together on and off the field, and I think, off the field, the connections really grew and, by the end of it, we were getting on pretty well.”

However, he said he and his teammates are determined to make amends for their recent losses both in next year’s inaugural edition of Super Rugby Pacific, and when the All Blacks host Ireland for a three-test series in July.

“Our on-field performances, I thought we started out really well. Obviously those last couple of games have left a slight sour taste in the mouth for the summer, so a bit disappointed to finish like that,” Jordan said.

“It gives us a chance to have a good think over the summer and have a good Super [Rugby Pacific campaign] next year and hopefully get another crack at the Irish and those other teams.”

Listen to Will Jordan’s interview on the What A Lad podcast below:

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