All Blacks look at more depth to com­bat rush­ing de­fence?

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - CLAY WIL­SON

Don’t be sur­prised to see a deeper All Blacks back­line at Al­bany this week­end. Or was Beau­den Bar­rett was just fox­ing with the Spring­boks?

Talk of rush de­fence has been all the rage among dis­cus­sions and dis­sec­tions of the All Blacks of late.

Af­ter the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions of­ten em­ployed it dur­ing their drawn se­ries in New Zealand, some­what fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Ire­land dur­ing their his­toric win in Chicago last year, a de­fen­sive sys­tem that charges off its line is gain­ing trac­tion as a key fac­tor in throw­ing the world’s No 1 team off their stride.

That hasn’t stopped the All Blacks from go­ing three-fromthree to start the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, scor­ing back-to-back wins over the Wal­la­bies and com­ing-from-be­hind to over­come Ar­gentina last week­end.

The same pol­ish and pre­ci­sion we are used to see­ing in at­tack, how­ever, has con­tin­ued to at times go miss­ing across those three fix­tures.

But, ac­cord­ing to the player charged with con­trol­ling that back-line from first five-eighth, some­times things are not al­ways as they seem.

‘‘I don’t think Ar­gentina brought lot of that,’’ Bar­rett said on Thurs­day, two days out from their clash with South Africa at QBE Sta­dium.

‘‘We al­lowed them to have that space by be­ing a bit flat at times but I cer­tainly wouldn’t call them a rush de­fence team.

‘‘We ex­pect a bit more from South Africa but we’ve learned from the week­end and it can some­times be per­ceived line speed and we are play­ing into their hands if we are too flat at the line. We have ways of deal­ing with that.’’

Of course, im­ple­ment­ing those changes against a team with the qual­ity and re­newed con­fi­dence of the Spring­boks is not an easy task.

Bar­rett ac­knowl­edged this year’s young South African out­fit, who are un­beaten across six games, were a ‘‘very strong side’’.

But the All Blacks have be­come renowned for their abil­ity to solve the prob­lems the chas­ing pack throw at them and the con­fi­dence that trend would con­tinue did not ap­pear to have dipped.

Bar­rett said the squad were not feel­ing any per­ceived pub­lic angst at the team’s per­for­mances so far in 2017, be­fore ex­plain­ing what they needed to im­prove with re­gards to what op­po­si­tion de­fences were throw­ing at them.

‘‘[Com­mu­ni­ca­tion from those around me] cer­tainly helps but an easy re­sponse would be just to stand deeper, it gives you more time on the ball. If you have that speed we can al­ways make up for lost time if we are a bit deeper.

‘‘I [also] have to have bet­ter sit­u­a­tional aware­ness of whose around me and what the best op­tion is for that oc­ca­sion.

‘‘Un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence of when a tight for­ward is out­side or in­side me ver­sus an out­side back, and learn­ing from those sit­u­a­tions."

The All Blacks’ in­jury cri­sis is show­ing no signs of abat­ing, with Is­rael Dagg the lat­est player set to join the ranks of the long-term ab­sen­tees. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen re­vealed at his Thurs­day post-team nam­ing press con­fer­ence in Auck­land, ahead of Satur­day’s test against the Spring­boks in Al­bany, that Dagg’s on­go­ing knee prob­lem has reached a point where it might re­quire a ma­jor break from the game.


Beau­den Bar­rett at­tempts to evade the tackle of a Pumas de­fender in New Ply­mouth last week­end.

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