TTwo wins and a shaky draw in their first five games was not what the All Blacks bosses, or the people of New Zealand, had in mind when Ian Foster was controversially appointed coach after the team’s World Cup failure. Rugby.
The national calamity, feared, though largely unspoken, since the disappointing appointment of Steve Hansen’s former assistant late last year, has become a reality.
This is especially so when one of the losses came against Argentina, a nation New Zealand had never lost before, and a team so undercooked that it would still have been waiting its turn on the hot plate of an Australian Barbie if it had been one. . one of the huge steaks that the South American country is so famous for.
Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s loss to the world’s 10th team has been rated by New Zealand media among the worst of all time. Such debates are subjective and take little account of the magnificence of Los Pumas’ performance but, given the circumstances, it is a difficult argument to dismiss.
That’s even more so when you examine the key component of the All Blacks’ performance, or the lack of it. His failure came down to one word: attitude.
Despite all its complex rules, the essence of rugby is surprisingly easy to understand. The game is essentially a collection of individual duels played over 80 minutes, where the winner is the team whose players best combine mental strength with physical prowess.
A “whatever it takes” attitude is what prompts the individual to tackle one tackle, then get up as quickly as possible and get back into position to be ready to tackle one more. It is also what disciplines an individual to trust his partner inside or outside of him, so as not to run off the defensive line too quickly, or hold the opponent on the ground for too long, thus denying the opponent a rapidly recycled ball. and invoking a penalty.
And attitude is definitely what prevents a player from even considering initiating a shove with an opponent, or shamelessly slapping him on the head in front of the referee, actions that can only end in sanction against the individual and his teammates.
Not only was that attitude missing against Argentina in Sydney, it was also absent in Brisbane the week before, when Dave Rennie’s young Wallabies made a 40-point change from their record loss seven days earlier.
The result at Suncorp Stadium was dismissed by the majority, erroneously as it turned out, as the usual lone Wallabies, beating New Zealand’s “B-team” on a dead rubber that didn’t matter. Only it wasn’t. The Wallabies not so much beat the All Blacks as they defeated them, and the Argentines did not lose importance.
It could have been a very changed lineup seven days later, supposedly the “A” team this time, but the aspects of the contest were surprisingly similar, even until the last attempt by the All Blacks, which left a score that did not reflect the size of the team. real gap between the two sides, just as it had in Brisbane.
One side was prepared to withstand physical and mental damage to achieve a result. The other was the All Blacks. The recipe for catastrophe included poor discipline, passivity in contact, and an indifferent choice of options under pressure, with the level of performance constantly crumbling as the consequences of the result loomed more and more in the minds of players in panic.
The most damning thing was the bad discipline, as it reflected a willingness to take shortcuts born of an excess of confidence but also a lack of confidence in his teammates to recover the situation once a one-on-one duel had been lost.
Later, Foster regretted that there was talk of individual and collective discipline throughout the week during game preparation. It was certainly talked about again at halftime, at which point the All Blacks were 16-3 down, having mistakenly turned down a shot on goal by three much-needed points only to have the execution of skills disappoint them when Richie Mo ‘Unga kicked the penalty dead in goal.
Deja vu. A week earlier, it was the same time, the same decision, the same result after they had ruined a lineout adjacent to the Wallabies’ goal line immediately before running to the sheds. Too much to learn from your mistakes.
The fact that there was no change in attitude, even after all the halftime conversation, is an accusation against the gaming group, an accusation against its leaders but, more particularly, an accusation against the coaches. Your job is to set the scene. They choose the team, create the environment, and push the mental buttons to make sure the collective attitude is right.
While Foster could have retained the Bledisloe Cup, the requirement to win only two of the four Trials meant the odds were always in his team’s favor.
It has not helped the ‘old man’s club’ perception of decision-making in New Zealand Rugby that Scott Robertson, who was overlooked by Foster, has since won a fourth Super Rugby title and given hints. unsubtle of his international aspirations.
It’s one of the great ironies that union members say a key argument against Robertson was his plan to rely heavily on those who had served him so well in the Crusaders. Sam Whitelock was proposed as captain of a team led by Robertson. Jason Ryan, their four-time Super Rugby winner, would take over for the forwards.
Instead, Foster’s coaching staff includes former Hurricanes coach John Plumtree. While we can only guess at internal operations within the All Black environment, Plumtree’s weekly media profile is easily the best among Foster’s assistants, and it seems far-fetched to suggest that the prominent roles of players with whom he has had a long association, such as the Barrett brothers, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea and Dane Coles, is mere coincidence.
Along with skipper Sam Cane, Jordie Barrett is the only player to have started in all five tests, and his older brother Beauden and Savea are the only ones who have not officially “rested” from any of the games, as he only missed one due to to injury. and delivery respectively. Both were brought directly to the starting team as soon as they were available.
So instead of the supposed influence of the crusaders, it seems that we have the hurricanes. They even play like this: fast, loose, undisciplined, and inconsistent; scouts of the world one week, self-destruct the next.
Even if the guesses are correct, and Plumtree’s voice is the loudest among a group of inexperienced coaching aides, that is Foster’s choice and is his responsibility. It’s your team. But remember, he did not name himself.
New Zealand Rugby President Brent Impey and CEO Mark Robinson were on the interview panel that selected Foster and on the board that signed his appointment. They must take their share of responsibility for what has happened.
Through an unhappy 12-month period during which many of New Zealand’s most important rugby leadership decisions have been contentious, one of the earliest and most debated already looks like it could be the most costly of all.
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