Bay of Plenty Times
Wrong game to take risks
With the All Blacks in a three-way tussle for the Tri Nations trophy, expect to see the strongest team named
We have a lot of new fellas and we wanted to reward them with [game] time. Some have got that, some haven’t. Some haven’t got a lot. John Plumtree All Blacks assistant coach
All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree has dropped ahint athowhe and his co-selectors plan to pick this week’s team to face Los Pumasin Newcastle on Saturday.
In what will be their final test of the year, the All Blacks will be looking to bounce back from two consecutive losses, the latter of whichwas a shock result as Argentina topplednew Zealand for the first time in test rugby history.
After aweek off following the 25-15 defeat at Bankwest Stadium, thenew Zealanders will turn their attention to their final assignment of 2020 with the Tri-nations title on the linewhen theynametheir team later today.
Argentina’s 15-all draw with the Wallabies last weekendhas blown the tournament wide open, with all three teams tied on six competition points.
Needing awin to have any chance of claiming the the silverware on offer, Plumtree has indicated the All Blacks are likely to field their strongest available team, rather than use the match as a chance to develop youngsters.
Speaking to media, Plumtree said the lack of tests this year has prevented inexperienced players from gaining asmuchgametime as he and his fellow selectors would have liked.
However, he ensured that test caps won’t be handed out easily, and the best interests of the team will be taken into considerationwhenit comes to picking this week’s side.
“Ideally, wewanted to give everyone time on this trip,” Plumtree said.
“Wehave a lot ofnewfellas and wewanted to reward them with [game] time. Somehave got that, somehaven’t. Somehaven’t got a lot, but that’s just the nature of being with this team. It’s not a given right to be selected for the All Blacks.
“Wedon’t have a lot of tests, and as selectors, we’ve got to do what’s best for the team, but right now, we’re in a situation wherewehave to do really well, like Beaudy [Barrett] said, around this weekend in terms of the Tri-nations.
“That’s the trophy that we’re after nowwe’ve got the Bled [Bledisloe Cup] put away, andnowwe’re in for a sniff of the Tri-nations and we’ll be going hard at that.”
That doesn’tmeanthose with fewer test caps than theirmore experienced teammates are out of the running, though.
In fact, whenasked whether Akira Ioane, whomadehis test debut in the 24-22 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane three weeks ago on the back of an impressive Super Rugby season, was pushing for his second cap, Plumtree was clear in his response.
“Yup, definitely,” he said, “and Hoskins [Sotutu] we’re looking at as well, and Dalton Papalii hasn’t had a lot of time as well.
“All these players have been fantastic through Super Rugby and they’ve been great on this trip as well — if theycomeoff the bench or if they’re helping us getting prepared, I can’t fault them.
“They all deserve an opportunity, it’s just whether they get it.”
Regardless ofwhois asked to front against Argentina at Mcdonald Jones Stadium, one thing is certain— a vast improvement in discipline will be key if the All Blacks are to finish the season on ahigh note.
Barrettwas quick to admit that, saying his side was guilty of reacting too easily to the niggle dished out by both the Wallabies and Lospumasin their two most recent tests, leading to needless penalties which cost them dearly.
The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year said the All Blacks will need tomakeadjustments to their mindset if they are to stay on the right side of the referee and give themselves the best chance of victory.
“It’s clearly been our discipline,” Barrett saidwhenasked where things have been going wrong for the All Blacks in recent weeks.
“The last two games, you’ve seen referees being forced tomakesome big decisions and a lot of penaltiesup against us.
“Wecan’t give themany opportunity to do that, that starts with us and our discipline.
“You look at our attack and defence and you can pick that apart asmuchas youwant, but it starts with us not giving the refs anything.”
In order to help combat his squad’s ill-discipline, Plumtree revealed head coach Ian Foster had devised a training regime designed to force his side to subdue their frustrations on the field.
“We’re putting the players under pressure and Fozzie’s been working really hard on that, just with coming upwithsome creative games where, potentially, the players might get a little bit upset withsomeof his decisions,” Plumtree said.
“That’s just part of it, so there has been a big focus for us off the field as well, sowefeel like we’vecome a longwayin that space.
“I think a lot of the players have learnedmore about that, just controlling their emotions on the pitch— when things don’t go so well, howdowego about that, howwe help each other as well out there.
“These are all things that have been a big focus for us the last couple of weeks.”
Justhowwell the All Blacks have learned to temper their grievances will be put to the test this weekend.