All Blacks to focus on game plan in final stages ahead of Hamilton Test

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On Sunday, All Blacks coach Ian Foster said, after their 18-25 loss in Christchurch, they had to look at their response to teams who wanted to stifle them, especially in the final stages of games.


Research showed that in losses suffered in the last ten years, there was a pattern of wanting to hold onto the ball and run their way out of trouble – something he described as part of the All Blacks' DNA.


"It's probably a New Zealand rugby thing and we've got to sort that out," he said.


Because it was an ingrained New Zealand approach, it was harder to change.


"It's hard when something is a strength, and in the first half, it was a strength.


"We were making them make a lot of tackles, we were starting to get in behind them and create some things, and that was good. It is kind of natural that you want to go there when you are under a bit of pressure in the last part, but you've got to balance that with a little more wisdom in how we mix things up.


"If we offer more variety in what we offer then maybe it takes that attacking breakdown out of the equation."


All was not lost, however. The Championship was still alive, and none of the teams could claim consistency as there had been strong fluctuations in form.


The All Blacks' destiny was in their own hands with three games to play, which made Hamilton critical to their chances.



"We were pretty dominant early. We got ourselves into a position, particularly in the last 30, where Argentina stayed in the game, they put us under a lot of defensive pressure, and we stuck to an All Black-DNA.


"We tried to play and carry our way through a strong defensive line, and we need to be smarter about how we offer variety around that.


"We're desperately trying to build some new habits in this team about what we're doing on the park, and it seems you take a couple of steps forward and then, suddenly, you take one step back.


"That is frustrating when we are trying to build some new stuff there, but we've got to keep working on that."


A final penalty count of 14-12 was high for both teams. The penalties that hurt were often the early ones when they were over-zealous on the off-side line, while in the last quarter, they were mainly at the attacking breakdown where the All Blacks had been frustrated. Foster said they needed to control that with some of their tactical decisions.


"It is reflective that the team is trying really, really hard, but it's not quite there.


"Often, when you are trying to build something different, it takes a little while, and it's pretty frustrating. It's frustrating, I'm sure, for the viewers and the fans, and it's frustrating with us.


"But we have got faith that some of the things we're building are paying dividends, but it needs to happen quickly, and we know that."


The lesson from the two Tests in South Africa was to shorten their focus for the second Test, which was what they had to do now ahead of the Hamilton Test.


"The only way you get consistency is one step at a time."


The decision to substitute captain and flanker Sam Cane was down to a desire to replace a fetcher with the power of a ball carrier in Akira Ioane.


Foster said Cane was under the spotlight with the losses, but he felt his work in the tackle and around the breakdown had shifted up in the last two games.


He also defended hooker Codie Taylor who he said was working hard, and when the set-piece wasn't going well in the final quarter, it was easy to point the finger at the hooker.


The decision to replace Samisoni Taukei'aho with props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax, who had soft tissue injuries, was down to the combination in the respective front rows.


Foster said everyone was hurting - players, coaches, administrators and supporters. He understood some people would be angry but said that was the time for people to get behind the team.



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