After another sad, but winning, performance this weekend against Italy got me thinking about what NZ rugby needs to do. Before putting fingers to keyboard I stumbled onto this piece from Gregor Paul. It’s pretty much right-on.
Sadly, it will take a couple of years for NZ to fix its problems. Maybe in time for the RWC – but I doubt it. The key tenets:
- Put serious work into developing at least five players with deep, traditional first five skills. That means getting Colin Slade out from underneath Carter’s shadow now.
- Restore the core skills of the lock within the S14 franchises. They should be cooked by the time they reach the All Blacks.
- Lose the fixation with versatility. Why is Toeava playing? “Take Isaia Toeava – he can do everything, Henry even called him "gold" a few weeks ago. But what has Toeava achieved with the All Blacks? What has been his contribution? He’s never been able to hold a jersey and the crux of test football is that each position comes with highly specific demands.”
- Elevate kicking as a priority skill for backs. The big games are decided by the boot, not the ball carrier. That means embracing the drop goal.
- Sort the damn line-out out. That the All Blacks give up so many line outs is unacceptable. Get back to the fundamentals.
- Differentiate the loose forwards. We need more punch at blindside. Forget all the No 6s who become No 8s.
- Back to the damn fundamentals. Why are players are dropping balls all over the field? Unable to catch an up and under? Mis-timing kicks at the line? Come on. These are so called professional players.
Finally, set offensive play now matters more than ever. With all teams deploying a flat defensive line focused only on playing the ball in front of them having a very clear playbook is critical. Sth Africa’s ability to launch plays is incredible and stands them in good stead to for a clean sweep of the tri-nations.