ZB

Revealed: The team meeting that helped turn the All Blacks around

Author
Liam Napier,
Publish Date
Sun, 15 Aug 2021, 9:34am
The All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after beating the Wallabies at Eden Park. (Photo/Dean Purcell)
The All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after beating the Wallabies at Eden Park. (Photo/Dean Purcell)

Revealed: The team meeting that helped turn the All Blacks around

Author
Liam Napier,
Publish Date
Sun, 15 Aug 2021, 9:34am

A record win; vastly improved team performance and the Bledisloe Cup safely secure for another year. Ian Foster could not have asked for a more compelling response from the All Blacks.

One week on from an underwhelming opening Bledisloe victory the All Blacks made amends to leave no ambiguity about their capabilities in the crushing 57-22 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday night that featured their highest tally against Australia.

While the catalyst for the dominant display was laid up front where captain Sam Whitelock led superbly and Brodie Retallick, Akira Ioane, Ardie Savea and Codie Taylor shone, Foster revealed the genesis came at a clear the air meeting last Sunday when the All Blacks addressed all the uncertainty surrounding their imminent departure from New Zealand for potentially up to three months.

"It's been a big week sorting things out," Foster said after a performance that ranks alongside last year's 43-5 victory in Sydney as the best of his short tenure. "I'm really proud of our group. The balance is do you front foot these things and have good conversations about them, or do you lock it away and get the game done and try fix things late?

"We had a big meeting on Sunday night as a team. We spoke about the different options; we wrote up all the questions about the things we don't know. Some of those will go to our board, some will go to Robbo [NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson], go to [Prime Minister] Jacinda [Ardern]. We don't know all the answers.

"It was a great session for us. What we do know is we're hopping on a plane and we're playing at least until after the Argentinians, probably until after the South Africans, and then we don't know what the quarantine situation is like so we'll make that decision when we're over there.

"As a group we've learnt not to hide the information from each other but to use it, have a conversation, agree on what we do and don't know and then roll our sleeves up.

"Sam has led this team has magnificently in that space. It takes a lot when you've got a lot of distractions to stay focused on the task. We saw a team that was pretty focused. It was important we made a statement."

After running in eight-tries-to-three, the All Blacks sure made a statement. The importance of pushing aside those distractions to build confidence and cohesion for the long-haul tour that awaits is crucial.

The All Blacks can now tick off their first major goal of the year – retaining the Bledisloe for a 19th straight year. Whitelock made it clear that long-held dominance does nothing to diminish the significance of a trophy the All Blacks treasure only marginally less than the World Cup.

"It's never taken for granted," Whitelock said. "If it was it would be gone pretty quick. It is very, very special. It's a trophy we know a lot of the history about. Both sides have highs and lows with the Bledisloe.

"It's something that's different for us as Kiwis. It doesn't matter what sport it is; Aussie against New Zealand everyone wants to go out there and compete against the neighbour. It's always been special and always will be.

"I hope after I've hung up the boots and watching in 20 years that feeling is still there and I'm sure it will be because it means so much to both teams and countries."

Foster praised the way his men dealt with the challenges the Wallabies threw at them during a competitive first half. Despite the final scoreline suggesting otherwise, it didn't always come easy.

The All Blacks led 21-15 at halftime and only kicked clear once Aaron Smith put Codie Taylor in for the first of his brace while Ardie Savea was in the sin bin. Their intent to play until the 82nd minute, when David Havili scored, and the impact from the bench ensured sipping from the Bled will be all the more satisfying.

"The leadership and composure from Sam was really good because we were under a lot of pressure in spells particularly in the first half so we made some big steps forward in that space," Foster said.

"We wanted to respond and the reason we had to respond is we knew the Aussies would lift. They played a combative, physical style in that first 40 and you could see they really wanted to take us on up front.

"We stuck to our plan, we didn't panic or go away from what we wanted to do."

In the only negative of the night Foster attempted to brush off concerns around the underwhelming 25,121 crowd for the likely last home match of the All Blacks season.

"To have a game thrust into the same market in 10 days notice it just shows the complexities for professional rugby. We're about to go to Australia and who knows what size grandstands we're going to get over there so we're just going to celebrate the people who were there to be perfectly honest."