NZ Herald rugby journalist Gregor Paul was on Wednesday’s OTB AM and discussed the changing structure of the All Blacks' attack.
The All Blacks have struggled in recent weeks against Argentina and South Africa, with both sides being able to nullify their attacking play to a large extent.
While they have not yet been beaten this year, claiming a four-point win over Los Pumas and drawing with the Springboks, they now look set to relinquish their Rugby Championship title to South Africa.
Paul believes that head coach Steve Hansen has thrown out the script from previous systems and has set up a new attacking structure for the team.
“Teams that get off the line really quickly and blitz them and cut down their space have had an awful lot of success at doing it. The All Blacks have struggled quite badly.
“The All Blacks have said, ‘We need a few tricks up our sleeve and we want to use our attacking prowess. We’ve got all these guys that can play but they can’t play if they’re just being swarmed by defense.’
“So they need to find a way that they can throw a few tricks into it and start unsettling teams that rush at them,” Paul commented.
The All Blacks have managed to retain the top spot in the World Rugby Rankings, but the cracks have been showing since the drawn Lions series in the summer of 2017.
Nobody will be writing them off for this year’s World Cup in Japan, but there are a number of sides that will feel that they can get one over the world champions.
“I think they know that they need to be more creative and more dynamic in the way that they attack. They need to find a way to avoid being swamped the way Ireland have done so effectively.
“We haven’t really seen it yet, we don’t quite know what they’re trying to do. But clearly, that’s what they need to do. If they do play Ireland in the quarter final they need to be confident in themselves that they have a range of ways of buckling and bending that defence,” Paul said.
Are they holding back?
While it’s important for New Zealand to test out their new attacking structures they will be wary that everyone will be watching and studying their new style of play.
This leaves them in the awkward position of trying to perfect this new style of play while attempting to disguise exactly what they are doing at the same time.
“They want there to be a bit of an element of surprise. They don’t want everyone to know quite what they’re doing and be able to adjust to what it is that they’re doing. It’s quite tricky,” Paul explained.
The All Blacks take on the Wallabies in Perth on the 10th of August knowing that even a bonus point win against their old rivals would unlikely not be enough to win the 2019 Rugby Championship.
However, if they get their gameplan in motion and maintain their dominance over their Trans-Tasman rivals they’ll go into the World Cup knowing a third consecutive world title is well within their grasp.